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  #1  
Old October 13th, 2011, 08:12 AM
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Default Alaska: unidentified outbreak kills dozens of ringed seals- Walruses ill as well - Ribbon seal found with syndrome 3/12

Source: http://www.alaskadispatch.com/articl...s-ringed-seals

In Alaska's Arctic, mysterious outbreak kills dozens of ringed seals
Alex DeMarban | Oct 12, 2011

A mysterious and potentially widespread disease is thought to have contributed to the deaths of dozens of ringed seals along Alaska's Arctic coast. Scores more are sickened, some so ill that skin lesions bleed when touched...

Last edited by Emily; April 8th, 2012 at 07:31 AM. Reason: Added species to title
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Old October 13th, 2011, 09:55 PM
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Default Re: Alaska: unidentified outbreak kills dozens of ringed seals

Note the condition involves hair loss and lesions on the skin, respiratory system, liver, lymphoid system, heart and brain. Also: "Laboratory findings have been inconclusive to date but samples have tested negative for pox virus, herpes virus, papillomavirus, morbillivirus and calicivirus."

Some walruses are showing up with similar conditions.

Mysterious disease takes toll on ringed seals in Alaska Arctic

An unknown disease is killing or weakening scores of ringed seals along Alaska's north coast, where the animals have been found with lesions on their hind flippers and inside their mouths.....

Read more: http://www.adn.com/2011/10/13/211877...#ixzz1aiWNhRms

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Old October 14th, 2011, 01:56 AM
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Default Re: Alaska: unidentified outbreak kills dozens of ringed seals

The novel orange fungus was discovered in Kivalina, Alaska in August.

http://www.flutrackers.com/forum/sho...d.php?t=171730

The new disease afflicting Ringed Seals was first observed in July. Some of the fungal agent symptoms in pinnipeds described in the article below seem to have some similarities to the new disease in Ringed Seals.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/arti...00014-0027.pdf
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Old October 14th, 2011, 08:39 AM
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Default Re: Alaska: unidentified outbreak kills dozens of ringed seals- Walruses ill as well

Source: http://www.alaskadispatch.com/articl...ng-illness-too

Walruses hauling out in Northwestern Alaska with festering illness, too
Alex DeMarban | Oct 13, 2011

Arctic ringed seals aren't the only marine mammal suffering an unusual skin-lesion outbreak along Alaska's northern coasts.

Walruses that have hauled out by the thousands at Point Lay in Northwest Alaska during recent summers -- an event driven by climate change -- are also turning up with bizarre, festering sores. Scientists estimate perhaps 600 are infected. Instead of wounds on their faces and rear flippers, red abscesses pepper the animals' entire bodies. But apparently only a few have perished.

Still, scientists from a number of agencies are working to answer several questions, including whether the outbreaks in the two species are related. They also worry the lesions could eventually lead to deaths among Pacific walrus, an animal more than 100,000 strong that's being considered for protections under the Endangered Species Act...
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Old December 16th, 2011, 11:15 AM
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Default Re: Alaska: unidentified outbreak kills dozens of ringed seals- Walruses ill as well

Diseased Ice Seals


Disease Outbreak in Northern Alaska



A diseased seal with lesions and hair loss. Photos: B. Sinnok





General Information
News Releases
  • November 1, 2011. Public Service Announcement on Arctic Seal Disease
  • October 13, 2011. NOAA Scientists seeking answers in skin lesion disease outbreak in ringed seals

← Protected Resources | Seals | Ice Seals

http://www.fakr.noaa.gov/protectedre...ed/default.htm
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Old December 20th, 2011, 04:48 PM
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Default Re: Alaska: unidentified outbreak kills dozens of ringed seals- Walruses ill as well

Source: http://www.alaskadispatch.com/articl...ed-seal-deaths

NOAA: Virus not responsible for mysterious Alaska ringed seal deaths
Alex DeMarban | Dec 20, 2011

A federal agency said Tuesday that tests indicate a virus did not cause the deaths or illnesses of more than 100 Arctic Alaska ringed seals found with skin sores, ulcers on internal organs, patchy hair loss and other symptoms.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration scientists announced via press release that despite numerous tests, it still does not know what's causing the illness...
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Old December 20th, 2011, 05:48 PM
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Default Re: Alaska: unidentified outbreak kills dozens of ringed seals- Walruses ill as well

NEWS RELEASE
December 20, 2011
Julie Speegle, 907-586-7032 w., 907-321-7032 c.
Bruce Woods, USFWS, 907-786-3695
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Ringed seal with sores on skin (top), Seal with sores on eyes (middle) and Seal flipper lesions (bottom). Photos: North Slope Borough Department of Wildlife Management
DEATHS OF RINGED SEALS IN ALASKA DECLARED AN UNUSUAL MORTALITY EVENT; WALRUS PENDING

Cause not yet identified; public encouraged to report sightings of diseased or dead animals
NOAA today declared the recent deaths of ringed seals in the Arctic and Bering Strait regions of Alaska an unusual mortality event, triggering a focused, expert investigation into the cause. A decision by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on making such a declaration for Pacific walrus in Alaska is pending.

Since mid-July, more than 60 dead and 75 diseased seals, most of them ringed seals, have been reported in Alaska, with reports continuing to come in. During their fall survey, scientists with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service also identified diseased and dead walruses at the annual mass haul-out at Point Lay.

Seals and walruses suffering from this disease have skin sores, usually on the hind flippers or face, and patchy hair loss. Some of the diseased mammals have exhibited labored breathing and appear lethargic. Scientists have not yet identified a single cause for this disease, though tests indicate a virus is not the cause.

Hunters continue to see numerous healthy animals, and despite considerable contact with seals by hunters and field research personnel throughout this event, no similar illnesses in humans have been reported. Still, it is not known whether the disease can be transmitted to humans, pets, or other animals. Native subsistence hunters should use traditional and customary safe handling practices, and the Alaska Division of Public Health recommends fully cooking all meat and thoroughly washing hands and equipment with a water/bleach solution.

Any member of the public who encounters a seal or walrus that looks sick or behaves unusually, such as by not fleeing from humans, should avoid approaching or making contact with the animal. Sick or dead marine mammals should be reported to the following agencies, based on where the animal is seen:

North Slope area: North Slope Borough Department of Wildlife Management: 907-852-0350
Bering Strait region: Alaska Sea Grant Marine Advisory Program: 1-800-478-2202 or 907-443-2397
Elsewhere in Alaska: NOAA Fisheries Alaska marine mammal stranding hotline: 1-877-925-7773
Necropsies and laboratory tests to date have found skin lesions in most cases, as well as fluid in the lungs, white spots on the liver, and abnormal growths in the brain. Some seals and walruses have undersized lymph nodes, which may indicate compromised immune systems.

Testing continues for a wide range of possible factors that may be responsible for the animals’ condition, including immune system-related diseases, fungi, man-made and bio-toxins, radiation exposure, contaminants, and stressors related to sea ice change.

Walruses and ringed seals in Russia, and ringed seals in Canada, have reportedly suffered similar symptoms. While it is not clear if the disease events are related, the timing and location of the disease suggests the possibility of transmission between the populations, or shared exposure to an environmental cause.

Since early November, federal agencies and partners have been consulting with the Working Group on Marine Mammal Unusual Mortality Events – a group of experts from scientific and academic institutions, conservation organizations, and state and federal agencies – to consider if the seal and walrus deaths met the criteria for an unusual mortality event. Late last week, the Working Group recommended NOAA and the Fish and Wildlife Service declare an unusual mortality event.

The rigorous, collaborative investigation into these deaths has and will continue to involve the North Slope Borough, numerous organizations, local communities, Tribal entities, and members of the Alaska Marine Mammal Stranding Network, including the Alaska SeaLife Center, Alaska Sea Grant Marine Advisory Program, and Alaska Department of Fish and Game. These investigations may require months or even years of data collection and analysis.

NOAA’s Alaska regional fisheries website, alaskafisheries.noaa.gov, has more in-depth information about this disease outbreak in ringed seals and walruses. NOAA will make any new information available to the public on this website and will work with local native organizations, including the Ice Seal Committee and the Eskimo Walrus Commission, to ensure that information is distributed to affected communities. Any findings of public health significance will be immediately released.

NOAA's mission is to understand and predict changes in the Earth's environment, from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun, and to conserve and manage our coastal and marine resources. Join us on Facebook, Twitter and our other social media channels.

To learn more about NOAA Fisheries in Alaska, visit alaskafisheries.noaa.gov or www.afsc.noaa.gov.

http://www.fakr.noaa.gov/newsrelease...ration2011.htm
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Old December 20th, 2011, 05:57 PM
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Default Re: Alaska: unidentified outbreak kills dozens of ringed seals- Walruses ill as well

Audio teleconference December 20, 2011. (mp3 format)

http://www.fakr.noaa.gov/protectedre...ence122011.mp3
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Old February 1st, 2012, 01:43 PM
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Default Re: Alaska: unidentified outbreak kills dozens of ringed seals- Walruses ill as well

Source: http://www.avma.org/onlnews/javma/feb12/120215d.asp

posted February 1, 2012
Seal disease investigation intensifies

The investigation into a fatal disease among ringed seals in the Arctic and Bering Strait regions of Alaska has intensified following a federal agency's determination the outbreak constitutes an "unusual mortality event."

The decision by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration this past December means additional resources will be dedicated to identifying what's behind the illnesses and deaths of more than 100 seals since the summer (see JAVMA, Dec. 15, 2011, page 1524). As of press time in January, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service had not determined whether it would declare the outbreak an unusual event...
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Old March 8th, 2012, 03:21 PM
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Default Re: Alaska: unidentified outbreak kills dozens of ringed seals- Walruses ill as well

Source: http://www.alaskadispatch.com/articl...r-normal-range

Diseased seal shows up in Southeast Alaska, far from normal range
Alex DeMarban | Mar 07, 2012

The mystery disease that killed or sickened at least 135 seals in the Arctic has been discovered for the first time in a yearling seal that traveled far from its range to Southeast Alaska.

A fisherman there found a "fairly bald, sickly-looking, and lethargic" seal hauled out on the shore near Yakutat last week, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported.

After hearing about the seal, thought to be a ringed seal, officials recommended it be sent to Anchorage for analysis. The animal was so sick it had to be euthanized, the agency said in a press release...
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Old March 25th, 2012, 11:22 AM
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Default Illness plaguing seals and walruses brings disease hunters to Alaska

http://www.alaskadispatch.com/articl...hunters-alaska

Illness plaguing seals and walruses brings disease hunters to Alaska
Jill Burke | Mar 21, 2012


Mysterious outbreak killing Arctic Alaska ringed seals
Walruses suffer from similar disease afflicting Alaska ringed seals

Although the skin ailments that appear to be affecting seals and walruses in Alaska have a generic name -- ulceratitive dermatitus disease syndrome -- there are many unanswered questions about the illnesses. Scientists and hunters here and in Russia want to better understand what's causing the sicknesses and how concerned about them they should be.

For example, while skin ulcers and other conditions -- hair loss, lethargy, oozing sores, bloody mucous, congested lungs -- are affecting seals and walruses, it's not known if the two species are suffering from the same sickness. And although much studying has been done to determine whether it's the result of a virus or radiation, and no tests have linked these origins to the illness, it's not yet known what the root cause is. Toxins and environmental factors, like harmful algae blooms and thermal burns, are under consideration. As is whether allergy, hormone or nutritional problems might play a role.


more at above link..
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Last edited by sharon sanders; March 25th, 2012 at 03:56 PM. Reason: shortened
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Old April 8th, 2012, 07:38 AM
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Default Re: Alaska: unidentified outbreak kills dozens of ringed seals- Walruses ill as well - Ribbon seal found with syndrome 3/12

The seal had so much hair loss that the distinctive ribbon color pattern was gone, but ringed seals are very, very rare in the Gulf of Alaska and studies confirmed the seal had to be ribbon seal.

http://www.akbizmag.com/Alaska-Busin...t-Ringed-Seal/
Quote:
Diseased Seal Found Near Yakutat Determined to be Ribbon, Not Ringed Seal

Photo: Alaska Department of Fish and Game
Juneau, AK — Marine mammal scientists say the diseased seal found near Yakutat last month has turned out to be a ribbon seal, not a ringed seal as originally thought.
[snip]
Although scientists still don’t know what is causing of the disease, they have ruled out numerous bacteria and viruses known to affect marine mammals. Advanced testing techniques (i.e. deep sequencing 4-5-4) for unidentified infectious agents is continuing as well as further testing for potential other causes including man-made and biotoxins, radiation, contaminants, auto-immune diseases, nutritional, hormonal and environmental factors. Recently, tests for domoic acid and PSP/saxitoxin were negative or of such low readings as to be clinically insignificant...
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Old April 8th, 2012, 08:22 AM
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Default Re: Alaska: unidentified outbreak kills dozens of ringed seals- Walruses ill as well - Ribbon seal found with syndrome 3/12

NEWS RELEASE
April 5, 2012
Julie Speegle, 907-586-7032 w., 907-321-7032 c.
DISEASED SEAL FOUND NEAR YAKUTAT DETERMINED TO BE RIBBON, NOT RINGED SEAL

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The ribbon seal skull is on the left and the ringed seal skull on the right. The ribbon seal has a shorter snout and larger, rounder eye orbits. The bridge of the nose is much broader in ribbon seals, and the cranium is very broad.. Photo: Alaska Department of Fish and Game
Juneau, AK — Marine mammal scientists say the diseased seal found near Yakutat last month has turned out to be a ribbon seal, not a ringed seal as originally thought.

Morphology—the study of form and structure—and genetics independently confirmed that the seal was a ribbon seal.

Genetic testing conducted at NOAA's Southwest Fisheries Science Center determined the gene sequence was a 93-percent match to a ribbon seal. An examination of the skull by Alaska Department of Fish and Game scientist Lori Quakenbush found the skull had a shorter snout, rounder eye orbits, a broad cranium, and broader nose bridge consistent with a ribbon seal's skull.

The yearling seal was discovered hauled out near Yakutat last month. It was reported to be fairly bald, sickly-looking, and lethargic. NOAA Fisheries scientists advised that the animal be captured and sent to Anchorage for examination by a pathologist and wildlife veterinarians.

When the seal pup arrived in Anchorage, it was found to be so ill it had to be euthanized.

Findings indicated that the seal had similar symptoms to those in the declared 2011 Northern Pinniped Unusual Mortality Event (UME), which has been affecting ice seals and Pacific walruses in the Arctic and Bering Strait regions of Alaska since last summer. The primary symptoms are hair loss, skin sores, and lethargic behavior.

Given the fact that sightings of ringed seals in the Gulf of Alaska are extremely rare and that most of the distinctly-patterned fur was missing from the seal found near Yakutat, a sample of its DNA was sent for analysis to determine species identity.

Since last July, nearly 150 seals have been reported in Alaska. Most of the seals were ringed seals. Scientists with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have also discovered similar symptoms in Pacific walruses at the Point Lay haul-out.

Although scientists still don't know what is causing of the disease, they have ruled out numerous bacteria and viruses known to affect marine mammals. Advanced testing techniques (i.e. deep sequencing 4-5-4) for unidentified infectious agents is continuing as well as further testing for potential other causes including man-made and biotoxins, radiation, contaminants, auto-immune diseases, nutritional, hormonal and environmental factors. Recently, tests for domoic acid and PSP/saxitoxin were negative or of such low readings as to be clinically insignificant.

If you find a marine mammal which appears diseased or distressed, please call NOAA Fisheries Marine Mammal Stranding Hotline at 1-877-925-7773.

Information on the UME assessment progress and findings can be found at:

Ice seals: http://alaskafisheries.noaa.gov/prot...ed/default.htm
Walruses: http://alaska.fws.gov/fisheries/mmm/...estigation.htm
NOAA's mission is to understand and predict changes in the Earth's environment, from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun, and to conserve and manage our coastal and marine resources. Join us on Facebook, Twitter and our other social media channels.

To learn more about NOAA Fisheries in Alaska, visit alaskafisheries.noaa.gov or www.afsc.noaa.gov.

http://www.fakr.noaa.gov/newsrelease...seal040512.htm
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Old April 9th, 2012, 08:30 PM
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Default Re: Alaska: unidentified outbreak kills dozens of ringed seals- Walruses ill as well - Ribbon seal found with syndrome 3/12

This article is from last October, but might have details on a necropsy that are not in other articles already posted.

http://www.alaskadispatch.com/articl...lues?page=full
Quote:
What illness is harming Alaska's ringed seals? Veterinarians search for clues.
Alex DeMarban | Oct 25, 2011
[snip]
The site of this kill indicates that whatever ails ringed seals may not confined to the North Slope.

This ringed seal had the same symptoms as the others the veterinarians have seen, but it was relatively healthy, said Burek-Huntington, judging from its two-inch layer of fat and well-developed muscles. Also, the lesions ringing the bulging eyes, and the bright pink sores on the rear flippers, were fewer and smaller.

But it had bigger problems. With help from Tuomi, Burek-Huntington rolled the wobbly bag of flesh onto its back. It appeared to be in mid-molt, with a shiny, copper-colored coat covering the rings that give the animals its name. Molting should have ended much earlier, Burek-Huntington said, peeling off tufts of fur and placing them in plastic bags.

And once the animal had been sliced open -- its skin lay off to the sides like an unbuttoned parka -- the team found more clues in the innards.

The liver was more orange-colored than it should have been, and had abnormal spots. Hepatitis and swollen livers have been a common symptom in the dissected seals.
[snip]
The lymph nodes were also inflamed, discolored and sometimes spotted, proof the seal had an infection of some sort.

"Guys, we need a camera," said Burek-Huntingon, calling to an assistant after finding an unusually large lymph node near the rear flippers.

"Whoa," said the assistant before snapping away.
....
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Old August 27th, 2012, 03:40 AM
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Default Re: Alaska: unidentified outbreak kills dozens of ringed seals- Walruses ill as well - Ribbon seal found with syndrome 3/12

Here's the lastest update from NOAA/U.S. Fish and Wildlife. Test results still not reported are most man-made pollutants, including radionuclides, and also the advanced screening to find a new pathogen.

I don't see testing for iodine-131 being done, nor any analysis on thyroid tissue.

There are necropsy photos at the link.

http://alaskafisheries.noaa.gov/prot...ume_qa0612.pdf
Northern Pinnipeds (ice seals and walruses)
Unusual Mortality Event (UME)
Q&A
June 25, 2012


How many seals in Alaska have been reported ill? How many necropsies (animal autopsies) have been performed?
In 2011, over 100 seal strandings were reported. Approximately 60% of animals were alive or moribund (near death) and approximately 40% were found dead. In 2012, Native subsistence hunting communities have documented over 40 seals (primarily adult bearded and ringed seals) with clinical signs, namely: hair loss, weakness, unresponsiveness to human approach, skin sores, or some combination thereof. As the Alaska Native subsistence bearded seal harvest in the Bering Strait region precedes hunting in the Chukchi and Beaufort Sea, all seal reports for 2012 have been from the Bering Strait region.
Pacific walruses are less affected and cases tend to involve juveniles and subadults. There have been no reports of widespread illness or mortality in subsistence harvested walruses in 2012. In 2011, approximately 6% of the herd hauled out at Point Lay in September had round skin ulcers or sores throughout their bodies; the majority looked healthy. There have been few reports of skin wounds in Pacific walruses from the Bering Strait region or Bristol Bay, and high definition photos from Round Island haulouts have been reviewed and support this as well.
Necropsies have been performed on 28 deceased ice seals (ringed, bearded, spotted, ribbon) and two deceased walruses. Small skin samples have also been collected from a few live, but sick, animals. Subsistence-harvested animals have yielded the best samples because those animals have not yet developed secondary infections or other diseases, which can obscure the primary wound process.

What characterizes the UME-related illness in these animals?
In order to recognize and help differentiate the UME condition from other unrelated disease conditions in ice seals and Pacific walruses, a “case definition” has been developed. Current case definitions are based on available clinical and necropsy data and will continue to be reviewed and revised as more information becomes available. Preliminary pathological description in ice seals and walruses summarizes what is currently known about the histopathological features of ulcerative dermatitis.

SEALS:
Based on review of pathologic findings to date, we believe there are two categories of disease in ice seals related to this UME (referred to as case type 1 and type 2 below). All animals consistently feature abnormal hair loss due to lack of regrowth (alopecia or baldness) or persistence of old coats. Old hair is distinguishable from developing hair by its dull, yellowish or “sun bleached” appearance.
Case Type 1: animals have varying degrees of hair loss or baldness and otherwise seem healthy. Ringed seals with these signs have been reported by subsistence communities from the Bering Strait and North Slope for many years, but not in great numbers. However, in 2011 reports from hunters indicated a significant increase in the number of affected animals.
Case Type 2: animals appear/act “sick”. They have skin sores, often around the eyes, snout, and hind flippers. Hunter and biologists observations indicate that many of the affected seals are easily approachable/remain hauled out on land for prolonged periods of time.
WALRUS:

Affected walruses feature a very distinctive pattern of small ulcers or skin sores widely distributed across the body. Sores tend to be the same size and fresh (new) lesions may ooze bloody fluid. Walruses normally
have many scars and cuts, so it can be difficult to determine whether they are cases. (Photo by Tony Fishbach)
What parts of seals/walruses are being tested?
Since we are not yet able to define the optimal specimen to be tested at any given stage of the illness the necropsy protocol for sample collection is extensive and highly detailed. The samples collected for testing include:
Hair
Skin
Skin lesions
Nasal swabs
Rectal swabs
Blubber
Lymph nodes
Tongue
Brain
Muscle
Chest fluid (if present)
Thymus
Blood
Lung
Heart
Bile
Liver
Spleen
Kidney
Urine
Stomach contents
Feces
What tests for pathogens are being performed?
What other tests are being done to understand the disease?

To date, numerous tests for viral, bacterial pathogens, and biotoxins have been performed. Despite extensive laboratory analysis, no specific disease agent or process has been identified. This may suggest that the underlying cause of this disease is most likely complex, involving a variety of factors.
The following disease agents, some of which cause ulcerative skin disease in marine animals, have been screened for and ruled out as possible causes: Calicivirus, Morbillivirus, Pan-Picornavirus, Herpesvirus, Papillomavirus, Poxvirus, Parapoxvirus, Vesicular Stomatitis Virus, Foot and Mouth Disease, Circovirus, Influenza A/B, Arterivirus, Adenovirus, Coronavirus, Enterovirus, Flavivirus, Orbivirus, Orthohepadnavirus, Paramyxovirus, Rhabdovirus, and Papovavirus. Advanced molecular screening for unknown viruses has been a continued effort. Results of “4-5-4” research (an advanced molecular testing technique) are still pending.
In addition, tissue samples have been collected for heavy metal, radionuclides (radiation), and persistent organic pollutant analysis. Results for these studies are pending and will be made available as soon as possible.
During the summer of 2012, additional biological sampling from live captured ice seals during permitted research (captured and released following health assessment) is scheduled to take place and may help to further resolve the understanding of the disease process associated with this UME.
What environmental factors are currently being investigated?
When are the environmental results anticipated?

An oceanography working group of Arctic researchers was established under the framework of this UME investigation. Factors that are being investigated in relation to this disease include water temperatures, changes in sea ice, ocean salinity and pH, terrestrial outflows, ocean currents, and composition and amount of food sources for each seal species.

What are veterinarians/pathologists finding inside dead pinnipeds that they consider unusual? Which internal organs are affected?
Post-mortem examinations of animals with skin sores have revealed a variety of changes in internal organs. Among the most striking is bloody fluid accumulation in the lungs (which are occasionally collapsed and/or discolored). Other changes include softened livers and a rare enlargement of the heart. Changes in the lungs are most commonly seen in animals that strand and die on the beach, and are likely due to the animals having septicemia/blood poisoning, secondary to the skin lesions. Almost all the seals necropsied had some form of hepatitis or inflammation of the liver. Immune organs such as lymph nodes and the thymus have also shown consistent changes. These changes include enlarged lymph nodes draining the skin and very reduced thymus glands in many of the young animals (< 1 year). The thymus, a specialized gland in the chest, is an important part of the developing immune system. The observed immune system changes may be secondary to the ulcers and the associated bacteria but could also suggest widespread compromised immune systems in affected ice seals.

Are there any clinical data that suggest walruses have the same illness as the seals?
Are results still pending? If so, when are the results anticipated?

The presence of an unusual skin condition suggests that walruses have an illness similar to the seals. The affected age classes and distribution of the skin lesions on the body are different between walruses and seals; however the ulceration and inflammation of the skin with damage to blood vessels suggest a similar disease process. In 2012, there were two reports from harvested walruses with unusual skin findings: one from Savoonga and one from Chefornak. Submitted skin samples from these animals were examined and one animal had skin lesions consistent with ulcerative dermatitis while the other was consistent with lesions due to trauma.
Are there any clinical data that suggest polar bears have the same illness as the seals?
Are results still pending? If so, when are the results anticipated?

Veterinarians who have accompanied the U.S. Geological Survey on capture missions this year have confirmed that hair loss and other abnormal characteristics in polar bears appear similar to those observed in ice seals. However, it is unclear if the condition is the same as that exhibited by ice seals and walruses under the UME. Similar clinical signs were recorded in polar bears in 1998-1999 with up to 20% of bears reported with hair loss. Between 1999 and 2011, individual bears were anecdotally observed with comparable hair loss.
In 2012, 23 out of 82 bears handled had unusual hair loss/thinning and/or nodules in the Barrow, Kaktovik, and Prudhoe Bay regions. USGS has collected a number of biological samples (blood, biopsies, feces, urine, hair) from both affected and unaffected bears for histopathology, genetic sequencing of viruses, fungal and bacterial culture, contaminants, and serology. Microscopic examination of skin lesions revealed changes distinct to those observed in seals and walruses and most likely represents a different condition in polar bears.
As reported by local hunters from Gambell, St. Lawrence Island, all polar bears harvested during spring 2012 were normal and healthy. Subsequent examinations of the hides by a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service walrus harvest monitor confirmed the normal condition. No hair loss or ulcers were present.
What is the new date for release of University of Alaska Fairbanks radiation testing results?
Muscle and liver samples from sick and healthy seals were collected in 2011 and 2012 for radionuclide analysis, specifically cesium 134/137. All the muscle samples had to undergo an extensive four week freeze-drying process in preparation for analysis and are currently being analyzed. Preliminary analysis of control samples from healthy seals has been completed and composite tissue samples from diseased seal samples are undergoing analysis. As soon as final results are available they will be provided.
Why are the seals tired / approachable?
Seals that were tired and approachable were most likely in the end stages of the disease. Based on necropsy findings and microbial culture results, many seals generally had bacteria throughout their blood stream and tissues. Widespread infection was most likely via invasion through the skin ulcers.
Why are there sores on the body?
Skin sores on the seals and walruses are due to inflammation of the small skin blood vessels. This results in an “infarct” or blockage of blood flow to the overlying skin that the vessels normally support which results in the skin dying. After a time, this dead skin sloughs and leaves an open bleeding area susceptible to colonization and invasion by bacteria that are in the environment or on the surface of normal intact skin. Some seals also have heavy fungal and bacterial colonization in these areas.

Why did ice seals not grow their hair/fur last summer? Will their hair/fur grow back?

The fact that four different species of ice-associated seals had hair loss suggests a common cause to this condition that has yet to be determined. Examined hair follicles exhibit degenerative changes, with mostly inactive follicles, suggesting that old hair will not be replaced with new hair until a new normal cycle of hair growth occurs. There was no scarring of the tissue in these areas, so seals should be able to regrow hair in the next molt cycle.
Are there any clinical data to suggest this illness can be transmitted to people?
Currently there is no evidence that people can be affected by this disease through handling and or consumption of traditionally prepared foods from seals and walruses. However, it is strongly recommended that Alaska Native coastal communities continue to rely on their customary and traditional practices as well as seek advice by community elders to aid in the decision process as to whether a harvested ice seal or walrus is fit for human consumption.
What, if anything, has been ruled out as a cause?
Testing has ruled out a number of bacteria and viruses known to affect marine mammals, including phocine distemper virus, influenza virus, leptospirosis, calicivirus, orthopoxvirus, and poxvirus. Exotic or foreign animal diseases and some domestic animal pathogens that produce lesions similar to those observed in ringed seals and walruses, were tested and found negative include foot and mouth disease, vesicular exanthema of swine, select picornaviruses, and Rickettsial agents. Many bacteria have been isolated from animals that were in the late stages of the disease, but these are generally organisms that reside on skin and in the gastrointestinal tract of both humans and animals and are generally not
considered serious pathogens. Consuming an animal that has blood poisoning with these microbes however, could produce illness, such as food poisoning.
The standard suite of biotoxins known to affect marine mammals in Alaska have also tested and proved negative. These algal toxins include domoic acid and saxitoxin (also known as PSP or paralytic shellfish poisoning).
What, if anything, is suspected as a cause?
To determine if there may be a novel virus affecting ice seals and walruses in this UME, more advanced molecular testing of sampled tissues has been undertaken and is currently underway at Columbia University, Mailman School of Public Health, a preeminent pathogen discovery laboratory, that has been involved from the early stages of this investigation.
Until a thorough understanding of the disease is reached, no environmental factor or disease can be ruled out as a cause.
Body condition: Why do some of the seals look so fat? Why are others so thin?
Nutritional status provides some insight into how long a particular disease process may have occurred. In animals with more blubber, death may have occurred more acutely, whereas, those individuals that are thin, likely had a more long-term disease course. Secondary pneumonia and an inability to dive and successfully forage for prey, secondary infections, poor or no appetite, lack of available prey, and other processes may contribute to loss of condition. This most likely depends on whether these are type 1 or type 2 cases. We suspect that thin animals are in the terminal stage of type 2 and are either unable, or unwilling, to feed normally due to their overall state of health.

What are the clinical international results from Canada, Russia, and/or Japan? Do we know? How many infected seals (by species, region, etc) and walruses have been reported in these countries and/or how many have been tested?
A few seals from Canada appear to be in the late stages of this disease, or a clinically related disease, and often have a systemic illness due to Streptococcus spp. Comparison of bacterial isolates from seals in Alaska and Canada is underway to better define the pathologic similarities of this disorder. Collaborative efforts are underway with Russian Native hunters and biologists to continue monitoring for the specific sickness among ice seals and walruses throughout Chukotka. Biologists stationed at walrus haulouts have reported that the condition of unusual skin lesions is most common in younger age classes of animals. Real time information sharing on diagnostic results and disease dynamics is ongoing with Russia and Japan. Due to the remoteness of Russian haul out sites and associated sample transport logistics, no necropsies of Russian walruses or ice seals have occurred.
From the recent seals reported or sent in, are the animals healing, getting sicker, and/or is there a “new” round of diseased seals this spring?
Cases are still being assessed and categorized. From initial public reports, it appears that most animals from 2012 are most likely survivors, and a smaller group appears to be “new” cases.
What kind of collaboration is occurring with other countries?
The investigation includes a transboundary working group which communicates about cases, monitoring, and testing with the Canadian, Russian, and European circumpolar members. A monitoring program has been established with Chukotkan hunters and biologists to monitor Russian walrus haulouts. This summer and fall systematic and comparable information in Alaska and Russia on mortality levels at coastal walrus haulouts is being collected. In Alaska, monitoring will include haulouts at Cape Pierce, Cape Newenham, Hagemeister Island, and Round Island in Bristol Bay as well as further north at Point Lay. Russian collaborators have agreed to gather the information from coastal haulouts in Chukotka.
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  #16  
Old December 12th, 2012, 04:35 PM
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Default Re: Alaska: unidentified outbreak kills dozens of ringed seals- Walruses ill as well - Ribbon seal found with syndrome 3/12

This is the latest update from October 2012. No results yet on contaminants.

http://alaskafisheries.noaa.gov/prot...update1012.pdf
Quote:
What do we need to know next?
1) Whether there are any “new” cases: Harvest surveillance will continue this fall
2) Why no “new” cases during Spring 2012
3) Whether walruses / ice seals have the same illness
4) What do the comprehensive series of symptoms (and timeline of events) indicate as a potential cause?
5) Timeline for contaminant and radiation results
6) Prevalence estimates – the proportion of animals are infected
7) How samples from normal seals and walruses compare to those from diseased animals, particularly with respect to molting
8) What are the risk factors that may indicate the UME is nutritionally or environmentally driven
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  #17  
Old January 25th, 2013, 01:43 AM
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Default Re: Alaska: unidentified outbreak kills dozens of ringed seals- Walruses ill as well - Ribbon seal found with syndrome 3/12

http://www.alaskafisheries.noaa.gov/...tement0212.pdf
Quote:
Drs. John Kelley and Douglas Dasher, who are the leads for the UME radiation assessment, are working with
the University of Alaska Fairbanks’ School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences and College of Natural Science and
Mathematics Engineering, Science and Technology Experiment Station on this investigation.
Muscle tissues from sick and healthy pinnipeds will be measured for the presence of Cesium-134
(134Cs) and Cesium-137 (137Cs).
Using the 134Cs/137Cs ratio from the Fukushima accident the amount of 137Cs contributed by
Fukushima can be estimated.
The results for each sample will go through quality assurance first and be provided to the UME
working group followed by timely reporting to the public.
And???
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  #18  
Old February 13th, 2013, 02:34 AM
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Default Re: Alaska: unidentified outbreak kills dozens of ringed seals- Walruses ill as well - Ribbon seal found with syndrome 3/12

http://www.alaskafisheries.noaa.gov/...update0213.pdf

Quote:
Northern Pinniped Unusual Mortality Event (UME) Update
February 2013

How many ice seals appeared to be affected by UME symptoms in 2012 as compared to 2011?
In 2011 over 200 ice seals were reported with UME symptoms. Most of the affected seals were ringed seals, but the unusual hair loss, delayed molt, skin lesions, and lethargy were also noted in spotted and bearded seals as well as one ribbon seal. Reports were received from northern Alaska, Canada (NWT), Russia (Chukotka), and Japan, with most ringed seal cases observed on the North Slope and bearded and spotted seal cases primarily observed from around the Bering Strait region.
In 2012, fewer cases were reported, with numbers declining as the year progressed. No new Canadian cases were observed in 2012. In Russia, fewer than 3 cases were identified in the spring with no new summer or fall cases. Similarly, less than 5 spring cases were received from northern Japan and no new reports received in the fall. In Alaska, there were fewer stranded seals on the North Slope with no live seals hauling out on local beaches (as observed during the summer of 2011); among the stranded seal carcasses no new cases were observed around Wainwright, Point Hope and Barrow. For subsistence harvested seals in Barrow, only 6 seals were found that had moderate patchy hair loss. The majority of reported cases (53) were from the Nome/Bering Strait region. Many of the cases reported in 2012, primarily adult bearded seals, did not appear to fit the 2011 case definitions as closely and it was also uncertain how many of these cases were ongoing (aka survivors) vs. new.
How many walrus appeared to be affected by UME symptoms in 2012 as compared to 2011?
In 2011, coastal community members, active hunters and research teams reported walruses with unusual skin lesions at the Pt. Lay coastal haulout. Because the lesions were similar in appearance to those observed in stranded seals, walruses were included in the ongoing UME investigation. Although Russian researchers and hunters have previously observed walruses with similar skin lesions at coastal haulouts in Chukotka, the condition had not been previously reported in Alaska.
In 2012, persistent sea ice in the Chukchi Sea prevented significant attendance at coastal haulouts, with no walrus observed at the Pt. Lay coastal haulout in Alaska and fewer animals observed at the Chukotka haulout in Russia. Of those animals observed in Chukotka, no new UME cases were noted. Similarly, no UME cases were noted in walrus carcasses along the Chukchi Sea coast as part of North Slope Borough surveys. Within the Alaska hunting community, 6 out of more than 1300 landed animals were reported with unusual skin lesions in 2012, however none of the reported animals clearly fit the UME case definition for walruses.
Diagnostic testing of walrus tissue samples for known viral and bacterial agents have consistently returned negative results. The cause and significance of the unusual skin lesions observed in walruses remains unknown.
Have polar bears been added as an affected species?
Since the spring of 2012, a total of 23 polar bears from Barrow, Deadhorse and Kaktovik have been identified with variable degrees of hair loss/ thinning, inflamed and crusting skin, and oral lesions. The prevalence of these symptoms appears to be in about 28% of observed animals.
Thus far, testing for endocrine abnormalities (thyroid function) and vitamin A and trace mineral imbalances in affected bears has been inconclusive, as have toxicity studies. Proposed testing includes genetic sequencing of tissue samples for new viruses.
The concurrent presence of hair loss in seals, walrus and polar bears has suggested a possible connection between the events. However, unlike the seals and walrus, the bears do not appear to exhibit behavioral changes or systemic involvement nor has mortality been observed in affected animals. A similar hair loss condition has also been observed in polar bears in the past. Consequently, evidence is insufficient to include polar bears as a UME species at this time, but monitoring for new or unusual cases will continue into the 2013 field season.
What are most recent events in the investigation?
On January 21, 2013, a full day UME workshop was held at the Alaska Marine Science Symposium in Anchorage, Alaska. The workshop was designed for those who had been involved in the response and investigation to date, and included members of agencies, diagnostic laboratories, academia and the subsistence communities from many areas throughout the US and Canada. The goal of the workshop was to facilitate the exchange of information, update participants on current findings; discuss the next steps including a list of possible causes of the event; concluding with an after action review of the investigation outlining what worked, what didn’t work and gaps that needed to be addressed in the future. Proceedings of the workshop are being prepared and will be made available.
Currently under discussion is how to most prudently use remaining tissues is as well as the submission and testing of control samples. Some specific questions under consideration include:

Is the UME due to a poorly described infectious agent?
A pathological progression that appears to be central to the UME includes a skin vasculitis (blood vessel inflammation) and immunosuppression followed by a variety of secondary bacterial and fungal infections. Substantial testing has been completed on an array of both viral and bacterial agents associated with vasculitis and other pathologies in marine mammals, with consistently negative results. Recently, more specialized testing has indicated the possible presence of less well characterized viral agents, including circovirus, lentivirus, retrovirus, and gammaherpesvirus. Follow-up of preliminary findings, as well as testing for these viral agents in control animals, is essential in determining their potential as agents of disease.
Bacteria associated with the cases are likely secondary pathogens; however, S. phocae and hemotropic mycoplasma are two bacterial agents currently being considered for assessment as important co-factors.
Is the Ume due to toxic agents?
Public concern about the Fukushima nuclear plant accident in Japan has prompted tissue testing for radionuclides. Preliminary qualitative screening showed radiation levels within typical background levels for Alaska. As a follow up muscle tissue from control (n=11) and a few diseased seals (n=7) have been provided to the University of Alaska Fairbanks for gamma analysis. Gamma analysis of control and four diseased seal samples have been finalized in January ; preliminary results confirm cesium 137 levels in control and four diseased seals are similar to historical levels observed in seals sampled in the mid – 1990’s in Alaska. Testing for the remaining seal samples has not been completed and gamma analysis is ongoing. An interim report is being prepared on these preliminary findings, which will be made available.
Testing has been negative for the most common harmful algal blooms (HABs), including domoic acid, PSP and okadiaic acid. Testing for cyanotoxins, such as mycrocystin and nodularin, has also been suggested relative to a cyanobacterial bloom that has occurred in recent years in the Kotzebue Sound/Chukchi Sea and liver samples from 4 seals with possible cyanobacterial changes have been submitted to a HABs discovery laboratory. Results were expected in December, but difficulties with the test have delayed these results. Results are expected imminently.
Is the UME a result of multifactorial causes leading to abnormal molt?
Testing is being considered for endocrine/metabolic/nutritional abnormalities associated with abnormal skin and hair growth. Environmental factors that made the spring of 2011 unique will continue to be reviewed.

For more background on this event, updates, regional contacts, and how to help, see:
http://alaskafisheries.noaa.gov/prot...ed/default.htm
http://alaska.fws.gov/fisheries/mmm/...estigation.htm
If you find a seal or walrus acting abnormally or showing signs of illness, note its location and contact your local wildlife authority as soon as possible.
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  #19  
Old February 28th, 2014, 05:29 PM
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Default Re: Alaska: unidentified outbreak kills dozens of ringed seals- Walruses ill as well - Ribbon seal found with syndrome 3/12

Northern Pinnipeds Unusual Mortality Event: Update 2014

Summary and Background
Beginning mid-July 2011, elevated numbers of sick or dead seals with skin lesions were discovered in the Arctic
and Bering Strait regions of Alaska. The North Slope Borough Division of Wildlife Management first began to
notice sick seals while conducting ice seal satellite telemetry studies during routine research in July and August
2011. Hunters also reported observing unusual symptoms in subsistence harvested seals. Although abnormal
hair growth (known as alopecia) had been under investigation in ringed seals for several years, hunters and
researchers were seeing seals with more severe signs of a novel illness, as well as dead seals. Diseased seals--
primarily ringed seals—exhibited the inability to properly regrow their annual new coat, a delay in the molting
process, and skin ulcers. Some of these seals also exhibited lethargy, labored breathing, and internal issues such
as a reduced thymus, hepatitis, etc. Similar cases were also reported in seals from western Canada, eastern
Russia, and Japan. Spotted seals and bearded seals were also affected. In addition, reports of skin lesions in
Pacific walruses were observed in Alaska, with some associated mortality.

By December 2011, there were more than 100 cases of affected pinnipeds in northern and western Alaska. Due
to the unusual number of marine mammals discovered with similar symptoms across a wide geographic area,
and after consultation with the Working Group on Marine Mammal Unusual Mortality Events, NOAA and USFWS
announced the declaration of an Unusual Mortality Event on December 20, 2011. The declaration established an
investigative team involving national and international specialists from numerous agencies, laboratories, and
institutions, and included Tribal leaders, hunters, scientists, veterinarians, wildlife biologists, and disease
diagnosticians.

This was the first UME involving subsistence species essential to coastal Alaskan communities. The investigative
team worked with the State of Alaska Division of Public Health and others to assess potential risk and distribute
general precautionary guidelines around handling and consumption in the absence of a known pathogen.
Throughout the event, Alaska Native subsistence hunters continued to use their traditional and customary practices when dealing with healthy and/or sick seals. At present, there is no evidence that consuming animals
involved in this disease event has caused any human illness.

Current Situation
Disease surveillance efforts in 2012 and 2013 indicate no new cases similar to those observed in 2011 have been
discovered. Instead, the seals reported with abnormal hair growth and healing skin ulcers are likely survivors of
the initial disease. Hunters may continue to see hairless seals during spring 2014, particularly in the subadult age
group.

Test Results
Currently, no specific cause for this
disease has been identified. To date,
numerous tests for viral, bacterial
pathogens, as well as biotoxins have
been performed. Despite extensive
laboratory analysis, no specific
infectious disease agent or process
has been identified. This may
suggest that the underlying cause of
this disease is most likely complex,
involving a variety of factors.

The following disease agents, some
of which cause ulcerative skin
disease in marine animals, have
been screened for and ruled out as
possible causes: Calicivirus,
Morbillivirus, Pan-Picornavirus,
Herpesvirus, Papillomavirus,
Poxvirus, Parapoxvirus, Vesicular
Stomatitis Virus, Foot and Mouth
Disease, Circovirus, Influenza A/B,
Arterivirus, Adenovirus, Coronavirus,
Enterovirus, Flavivirus, Orbivirus,
Orthohepadnavirus, Paramyxovirus,
Rhabdovirus, and Papovavirus.

Future work
Testing continues for a wide range of possible factors in this disease, including immune system-related diseases,
fungi, man-made and bio-toxins, radiation exposure, contaminants, and other stressors related to sea ice
change. Scientists are investigating the possibility that radiation could have been one of many factors that
contributed to the illness in these animals. Preliminary radionuclide testing conducted by the University of
Alaska Fairbanks found radiation levels within the typical background range.

http://alaskafisheries.noaa.gov/prot...tsheet0214.pdf
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  #20  
Old February 28th, 2014, 06:45 PM
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Default Re: Alaska: unidentified outbreak kills dozens of ringed seals- Walruses ill as well - Ribbon seal found with syndrome 3/12

I've wondered about UV from the ozone thinning that winter.

http://www.nasa.gov/topics/earth/fea...zone-hole.html
Quote:
NASA Pinpoints Causes of 2011 Arctic Ozone Hole
03.11.13

Maps of ozone concentrations over the Arctic come from the Ozone Monitoring Instrument (OMI) on NASA’s Aura satellite. The left image shows March 19, 2010, and the right shows the same date in 2011. March 2010 had relatively high ozone, while March 2011 has low levels. Credit: NASA/Goddard
A combination of extreme cold temperatures, man-made chemicals and a stagnant atmosphere were behind what became known as the Arctic ozone hole of 2011, a new NASA study finds.

Even when both poles of the planet undergo ozone losses during the winter, the Arctic’s ozone depletion tends to be milder and shorter-lived than the Antarctic’s. This is because the three key ingredients needed for ozone-destroying chemical reactions —chlorine from man-made chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), frigid temperatures and sunlight— are not usually present in the Arctic at the same time: the northernmost latitudes are generally not cold enough when the sun reappears in the sky in early spring. Still, in 2011, ozone concentrations in the Arctic atmosphere were about 20 percent lower than its late winter average.

The new study shows that, while chlorine in the Arctic stratosphere was the ultimate culprit of the severe ozone loss of winter of 2011, unusually cold and persistent temperatures also spurred ozone destruction. Furthermore, uncommon atmospheric conditions blocked wind-driven transport of ozone from the tropics, halting the seasonal ozone resupply until April.

“You can safely say that 2011 was very atypical: In over 30 years of satellite records, we hadn’t seen any time where it was this cold for this long,” said Susan E. Strahan, an atmospheric scientist at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., and main author of the new paper, which was recently published in the Journal of Geophysical Research-Atmospheres...
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