Starving to Death, 8000 Murres Wash Ashore in Alaska


Whittier, Alaska – At least 8000 dead common Murres have washed ashore in a massive population die off event that scientist believe to be caused by warmer waters causing a lack of food causing the birds to starve to death.

U.S. Geological Survey experts who have monitored seabird population density in the area since 1989 speculate that the lack of available squid, krill and little fish the seabirds usually eat are disappearing due to the rise in ocean temperatures.

Kathy Kuletz, the seabird coordinator for the US Fish and Wildlife Service said this has the potential to be the biggest mortality event in Alaska’s history — the numbers could reach more than 100,000.

At nearly five dead birds per meter of beach the scale of the die-off is unprecedented along the Sound, longtime residents say.

Since last summer Murres who normally stay on the ocean and coast have been desperately seeking food by traveling inland before starving. Starving murres have been found as far south as the San Francisco bay area and as far north as Talkeetna and even Fairbanks, Alaska.

murresMurres dive for their food, mostly small fish, using small wings that propel them underwater. Winter usually finds them at sea or on small islands.

A USGS study recently found Bering Sea and Gulf of Alaska seabird densities including gulls, murres, puffins and auklets have declined by 2 percent a year since 1975 — a total decline of about 50 percent of previous populations.

John Piatt, research wildlife biologist at the USGS Alaska Science Center stated “The background increase in global temperature is a happening fact,” he said. “It’s not hypothetical.”

“In the fall of 2013 and early 2014 we started to notice a big, almost circular mass of water that just didn’t cool off as much as it usually did, so by spring of 2014 it was warmer than we had ever seen it for that time of year,” said Nick Bond, a climate scientist at the UW-based Joint Institute for the Study of the Atmosphere and Ocean, a joint research center of the UW and the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

This year the huge patch of water, estimated to be nearly 4 degrees warmer than surrounding ocean temps is at least 1,000 miles in each direction, 300 feet deep and growing as the pacific ocean is expecting more unprecedented warm weather surges dubbed as ‘El Nino’ in 2016.

As the Guardian reports today, the earth is experiencing an unprecedented warming spurt. A much slower-moving cycle of the Pacific Ocean PDO has been playing a major role in the record-breaking warmth.

The 2014 flip from the cool PDO phase to the warm phase, which vaguely resembles a long and drawn out El Niño event, contributed to record-breaking surface temperatures across the planet in 2014.

The record warmth set in 2014 was surpassed again in 2015, when global temperatures surged to 1°C (1.8°F) above pre-industrial averages, worsening flooding, heatwaves and storms.

The underlying cause for the warmest temperatures and excessive droughts being experienced on the west coast is the slowing of the Pacific Ocean’s PDO

Amateur video of the beach in Whittier, Alaska offers a glimpse of the amount of dead murres along the coastline.

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