Second Largest Emperor Penguin Colony Disappears | 22 Words

It's hard to keep your chin up when looking at the facts of our environment. In spite of what some may think, there's no denying that climate change is real - and the effects of it are absolutely devastating. Acting now seems to be the only solution, yet those in power are still wringing their hands about what to do.

The latest in a string of pieces of horrifying environmental news concerns everyone's favorite flightless bird, the emperor penguin. They've been known to have been in trouble for years, and the latest update is as terrifying as it is heartbreaking. An entire colony - reported to be the second largest one on earth - has been wiped out overnight in one catastrophic accident.

Because emperor penguins are so large, they need solid ground on which to breed. But because of the rises in temperature over the years, this is getting harder and harder to find - and the results are difficult to comprehend.

Climate change is one of the biggest issues that we're facing right now.

It's something that the whole world will be forever altered by, and it's an absolutely terrifying prospect.

Humanity has already had a massive impact on the environment.

Our excessive consumption on all fronts is essentially what has got us into this precarious position.

And as we consume fuels, we increase insulating gases in our atmosphere.

These "greenhouse gases" trap heat, which can slowly heighten the temperature of the earth over time.

Which is having devastating effects.

Because higher temperatures can mean that we disrupt the careful balance that our planet has maintained in the past.

Even a minute rise in temperature can have an enormous impact.

Especially in areas where a sub-zero temperature is required in order to keep the integrity of the land.

It can destroy whole environments.

And this is when it really starts to hit home.

Our planet is in a bad way.

And it seems as though we're running out of time to save it, with more and more animals suffering each day.

And yet we're still being oddly slow to react.

It seems that in spite of the clear urgency, we're still unable to take the environmental situation seriously.

Because there's one thing that it's essential to remember.

We don't get a second chance on this - if we take our planet over the edge, we won't be able to come back, and the consequences will be dire.

Although some don't quite grasp the situation.

It can be tempting to ignore what's happening and bury our heads in the sand - but that won't help anyone out.

We've already lost a lot.

And when an animal goes completely extinct, there's no way to get it back, which is truly frightening.

The ecosystem is in a careful balance.

And there are currently many species of animal whose futures are looking a little unsure and are hanging in the balance.

It's the earth's coldest climates that are likely to suffer.

And Antarctica, the continent surrounding the South Pole, is where the effects of climate change are being most dramatically felt.

This is horrific for a huge number of reasons.

But a big one is that Antarctica is the only natural habitat of many species of penguin.

The emperor penguin is among the native birds of the continent.

They're the largest and heaviest of all the penguin species and they are a truly majestic bird. They live for around twenty years in colonies around Antarctica.

And we've recently heard some horrible news about these majestic creatures.

It's believed that the second largest colony of emperor penguins has disappeared overnight, thanks to a tragic climate change related accident.

It concerned the collapse of an ice sheet.

The ice sheet, near Halley Bay in Antarctica, completely fell away in 2016 - and since then, no penguin action has been discovered in the area.

The ice sheets in Antartica have long been under threat.

They've been solid and stable for millennia, but as temperatures rise, their stability is becoming threatened.

Halley Bay had been home to a large number of penguins.

Around five to nine per cent of the global emperor penguin population relied on this area as a breeding ground.

Around 15,000 to 24,000 emperor penguin couples were using the location.

This Wedell Sea bay was thought to be fairly safe, as it was one of the coldest areas in the region and largely unaffected by temperature changes - until recently.

They need the stable ice as a place to breed.

This means that it needs to be stable and secure for a large part of the year, from April until December, in order to allow eggs to incubate and hatch.

Emperor penguins are particularly heavy birds.

They can weigh up to forty kilograms, which means they require a thicker and more substantial surface to support their weight.

Without the ice sheet, there's no place for the penguins to breed.

And if the penguins don't have a place to breed, there's no way that they can continue their species. So you can see why these ice sheets are important.

Since the collapse in 2016, penguin activity in the area has been closely monitored.

The British Atlantic Survey has studied the guano of the birds in the area using satellite photographs, and have made a horrifying discovery.

Since the collapse, there have been no birds in the area.

"We haven’t seen a breeding failure on a scale like this in 60 years," researcher, Phil Trathan, told the Independent.

The stable platform is needed for the incubation of the eggs.

Penguin pairs tend to only have one egg between them, which they need to look after until it hatches, then they raise their fledglings - which is a lengthy process.

In October 2016, the ice sheet in Halley Bay was destroyed.

It was a period of highly unusual stormy weather which caused the sheets to disintegrate, wiping out an entire colony's worth of unhatched eggs in one fell swoop.

This had a huge impact on the colony size.

Missing out on a whole year's worth of new chicks made for a big decline in population, which has caused big issues for the emperor penguins overall.

This isn't the only bad news for emperor penguins.

On top of the destruction of the Halley Bay colony, the overall population of emperor penguins has been in steady decline.

So, what does this all mean?

“It is impossible to say whether the changes in sea-ice conditions at Halley Bay are specifically related to climate change, but such a complete failure to breed successfully is unprecedented at this site." Dr Trathan told the Independent.

Either way, it's clear that something needs to be done (and fast!) to save these amazing animals.