Andrea Lynn, Writer
Andrea Lynn, Writer

90 Seconds to Midnight

On Jan. 24, 2023 the Science and Security Board of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists moved the hands of the Doomsday Clock forward. The advancing of the clock to 90 seconds before midnight was due in no small part to the ongoing war in Ukraine. According to the board's announcement, the war has eroded international norms and the collective cooperation that is necessary to respond to global issues including significantly, climate change. 


The Arctic is warming faster than anywhere else on Earth and the narwhal's sonic habitat is being quickly transformed. Narwhals are highly adapted soniferous Arctic cetaceans that dwell in the waters and beneath the ice in one of the world’s most dynamic and extreme environments. Narwhals are dependent on sound as their principal sense. Like many cetaceans they rely on sound to learn and thrive in their environments. This includes communication, navigation, foraging, reproduction, and predator avoidance. 


Science is helping to explain how noise provokes physiological and behavioral changes in marine mammals, responses similar to those evidenced in humans. With time we are able to learn and adapt; sounds become familiar. Marine mammals, including narwhals, can do this, too. The challenge is that we’re running out of time.



The natural sounds of melting glaciers and sea ice are incredibly loud. This recording is of natural sounds below rafting ice floes at 79°41.36' N.


*If you listen closely, you will hear the songs of the bearded seals, and the voices of other Arctic creatures (these sounds are known as biophony—sound produced by living organisms).