Warming Arctic Spreading Seal Diseases

Alex Wierbinski's picture

By Alex Wierbinski - Posted on 08 December 2019



Ribbon Seal
An adult male ribbon seal lays on the ice, NOAA Fisheries, Polar Ecosystems Program.
An adult male ribbon seal lays on the ice, NOAA Fisheries, Polar Ecosystems Program.


Warming Arctic Spreads Disease

Melting Arctic Sea Ice Linked to Emergence of Deadly Virus in Marine Mammals,
University of California - Davis, November 7, 2019.


The Problem
"Scientists have linked the decline in Arctic sea ice to the emergence of a deadly virus that could threaten marine mammals in the North Pacific..."

"Phocine distemper virus (PDV), a pathogen responsible for killing thousands of European harbor seals in the North Atlantic in 2002, was identified in northern sea otters in Alaska in 2004, raising questions about when and how the virus reached them."

Melting Ice
New Transmission Pathways
"...how the radical reshaping of historic sea ice may have opened pathways for contact between Arctic and sub-Arctic seals that was previously impossible. This allowed for the virus' introduction into the Northern Pacific Ocean."

"The loss of sea ice is leading marine wildlife to seek and forage in new habitats and removing that physical barrier, allowing for new pathways for them to move."

"As animals move and come in contact with other species, they carry opportunities to introduce and transmit new infectious disease, with potentially devastating impacts."

The Science

"Satellite telemetry data helped the researchers link animal movement and risk factor data to demonstrate that exposed animals have the potential to carry phocine distemper virus long distances."

"The authors identified widespread infection and exposure to the virus across the North Pacific Ocean beginning in 2003, with a second peak of exposure and infection in 2009. These peaks coincided with reductions in Arctic sea ice extent."

Bottom Line

We land animals are watching warmer climates pushing disease-carrying skeeters, and their diseases, further and further North into places around the planet they've never been before. We're watching bacteria, beetles, spread and strengthen into once Winter-chilled climes as the globe warms.

Now we are seeing this heat-driven spread of disease is not limited to land, but is also opening up new channels of disease migration linking the Arctic to the Atlantic Oceans as the ice melts.

Add increasing and new disease transmissions to the already changing seasonal temperatures and transition timing, which is changing migration, feeding, and breeding patterns, and you have increasing potential for seriously damaging, if not completely collapsing, whole Arctic ecosystems, as we have already been watching off the West Coast of the USA since the Great Drought began in 2012 on the wings of the rapidly and radically changing weather and water circulation patterns in the Northeast Pacific.

It's a different world.

Oct 2019
The West Coast Ocean Warming Kelp, Urchin, Abalone, Starfish Disaster Continues


The Rapidly Changing Arctic

Sept 2019
2019 Arctic Summer Sea Ice Reaches Second Lowest Minimum on Record


Jan 2019
Rapid Arctic Warming, 2019: Unique Arctic Atmosphere & Local Amplification Cited


Oct 2018
ARCTIC ICE, 2018: Beauford Sea Instability Points to Arctic Ocean Transformation


Sept 2018
The End of Cold, 2018: Ice Caps Racing Away


April 2018
WATCH THE ARCTIC DISINTEGRATE: Fifteen Year Arctic Video & How to Use MODIS


Jan 2018
Climate Change News: Arctic Out of Balance, Arctic Ocean Rapidly Changing



Closer to Home

Oct 2019
Full Range of Rapid Climate Changes Across the Arctic Felt in Alaska


Aug 2019
Alaska Setting Heat and Dryness Records during July of 2019


June 2019
Alaska Skips Mid-Winter to Experience Late Spring Conditions in March



Warming-Driven Ecosystem Breakdown

Oct 2019
The West Coast Ocean Warming Kelp, Urchin, Abalone, Starfish Disaster Continues


March 2018
Ocean News, 2018: What Happened to the Sea Stars?


March 2018
Climate Change-Disease Linkage: Two Interesting Cases, Seal Pups & Starfish




Nov 2018
Climate Change Triggering Return of New, & Eradicated Mosquitos & Diseases




News of Man & Nature, November 2019








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