Santa Claus may have to find alternative transportation this year. Flying car maybe? A squadron of drones tethered together with carbon nanotubes? A 21st century upgrade would suit Jolly Old St. Nick just as well as that itchy red suit. From what animal does one procure fur that red, anyway? Suit aside, things aren’t looking too good for Santa’s traditional mode of flight. According to the latest “Arctic Report Card” issued by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Arctic reindeer are mysteriously disappearing from their traditional stomping grounds surrounding the North Pole. Can Christmas be saved?
NOAA scientists have found that reindeer populations are in dramatic declines and they’re not sure why. According to NOAA's Arctic Report Card, five of 22 herds monitored in the Alaska-Canada region have dropped by over 90% and “show no signs of recovery.” Several of these herds have lost hundreds of thousands of individuals, posing a threat not only to the hordes of hopeful boys and girls anxiously awaiting Santa Claus around the world, but also (and more importantly) to the indigenous cultures who depend on these reindeer for their way of life.
While the cause of the steep decline in reindeer population is still somewhat of a mystery, warmer Arctic summers are of course the prime suspect. What else? These abnormally warm temperatures have increased drought and parasites throughout the region and are awakening long-dormant diseases which have been frozen for centuries or more in the now-thawing permafrost. What's more, warm summers mean more rain, which then coats the ground in thicker ice during winters, making it more difficult for the reindeer to migrate and find food. They don't all fly, you know.
It’s unknown if the reindeer population can recover from the recent sudden decline. While Santa Claus traditionally circumnavigates the globe with a team of reindeer, this year might have to be different. Maybe Santa should test drone delivery. If Amazon can do it, surely Kris Kringle can too, right?