According to current predictions, by the year 2060 approximately 30% of current colonies could be in decline and this will leap to approximately 60% by 2099.
Over millions of years, climate change in the South Pole has always affected the distribution patterns of Adélie penguins.
Previously, the melting of ice glaciers by global warming had been allowing penguins to return to rocky breeding grounds previously inaccessible as they were covered by ice sheets.
But the team at the University of Delaware have now published a paper in the Scientific Reports journal, showing that beneficial warming has reached a crucial tipping point.
Author of the paper, Megan Cimino, told Eureka Alert: “It is only in recent decades that we know Adélie penguins population declines are associated with warming.”
Cimino added: “Which suggests that many regions of Antarctica have warmed too much and that further warming is no longer positive for the species.”
Adélie penguins breed across the entire Antarctic continent, but are experiencing most of their decline in the Western Antarctic Peninsula.
According to the Antarctic and Southern Ocean coalition, the Western Antarctic Peninsula is one of the most rapidly warming places on earth.
Greenpeace said in 2009 that some parts of the South Pole had risen by as much as 5 degrees Celsius more than other parts of the world.