Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner and Blitzen. I must have heard that chorus a dozen times each year as I was growing up. Still hear it.
But we may be approaching the last year when Santa’s sleigh will be pulled by reindeer.
The largest wild reindeer herd, on the Taimyr Peninsula, Siberia and the herd in Svalbard, Norway have both suffered from—you guessed it—global climate change.
Melting sea ice, less ice cover, especially in the Barents and Kara Seas, has resulted in more evaporation, which has raised the humidity in the atmosphere, which has resulted in more rainfall.
And that’s not good news, because when rain falls on snow, and then freezes, the reindeer cannot break through the crust to reach the lichens that are their main food supply.
Without food, reindeer starve. But first, pregnant females spontaneously abort their fetuses. Fewer reindeer are born; more die.
This doesn’t happen all the time or every year. On the other hand, 61,000 reindeer (22% of the herd) starved on the Yamal during the winter of 2013-2014. The Taimyr herd, which has been tracked for nearly 50 years, peaked at one million in 2000, but now numbers only 600,000—a 40% loss.
While average global temperatures have risen less than 2 C in recent decades, temperatures at places in the Arctic have risen as much as 2.8 C.
According to a study in Biology Letters, the situation is expected to get worse.
Of course, even more catastrophic has been the almost complete absence of sea ice at the North Pole during the summer. Do you suppose Santa’s Workshop has slid to the bottom of the sea?
Let us not forget that Trump has labeled climate change a "con job," a "hoax" and "bull ---t." In 2012, Trump tweeted that global warming “was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.” His denial of climate change and his nomination of Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State and of Scott Pruitt as EPA Administrator suggest that neither we nor Santa will get much help from Trump.
Registered Curmudgeon, scientist, skeptic, humanist, and writer.