Dec 10, 2019 - Energy & Environment

Extreme weather chokes off reindeer food supply in Swedish Arctic

Reindeer in a Swedish corral wait to be released onto winter pastures
Reindeer in a Swedish corral wait to be released onto winter pastures on Nov. 30. Photo: Malin Moberg/AP

Reindeer in Sweden's Arctic are hungry, the AP reports.

Why it matters: Climate change is altering weather patterns, choking off herds' food supply.

What's happening: The Arctic is warming twice as fast as the rest of the globe.

  • Unusually early snowfall in autumn was followed by rain that froze, trapping food under a thick layer of ice.
  • "Rain-on-snow" events are having devastating effects: The food is still there, but the reindeer can't reach it.
  • The animals grow weaker, and females sometimes abort their calves.
  • Some retreat to the mountains where predators abound, and the risk of avalanches is great.

Elderly herders recall that they once had bad winters every decade or so.

  • But Niila Inga, whose community herds about 8,000 reindeer year-round, said that "extreme and strange weather are getting more and more normal, it happens several times a year."

Go deeper: Key science report shows "unprecedented" changes to oceans and frozen regions

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