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Archive for Thursday, March 20, 2008

Global warming speeding spring’s arrival

Visitors stroll under the cherry blossoms along the Tidal Basin in Washington in this March 30, 2007, file photo. The trees are expected to be in peak bloom when the National Cherry Blossom Festival begins on March 29, but 30 years ago the trees usually waited to bloom until around April 5.

Visitors stroll under the cherry blossoms along the Tidal Basin in Washington in this March 30, 2007, file photo. The trees are expected to be in peak bloom when the National Cherry Blossom Festival begins on March 29, but 30 years ago the trees usually waited to bloom until around April 5.

March 20, 2008

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— The capital's famous cherry trees are primed to burst out in a perfect pink peak about the end of this month. Thirty years ago, the trees usually waited to bloom till around April 5.

In central California, the first of the field skipper sachem, a drab little butterfly, was fluttering about on March 12. Just 25 years ago, that creature predictably emerged there anywhere from mid-April to mid-May.

And sneezes are coming earlier in Philadelphia. On March 9, when allergist Dr. Donald Dvorin set up his monitor, maple pollen was already heavy in the air. Less than two decades ago, that pollen couldn't be measured until late April.

Pollen is bursting. Critters are stirring. Buds are swelling. Biologists are worrying.

"The alarm clock that all the plants and animals are listening to is running too fast," Stanford University biologist Terry Root said.

Blame global warming.

The fingerprints of man-made climate change are evident in seasonal timing changes for thousands of species on Earth, according to dozens of studies and last year's authoritative report by the Nobel Prize-winning international climate scientists. More than 30 scientists told The Associated Press how global warming is affecting plants and animals at springtime across the country, in nearly every state.

What's happening is so noticeable that scientists can track it from space. Satellites measuring when land turns green found that spring "green-up" is arriving eight hours earlier every year on average since 1982 north of the Mason-Dixon line. In much of Florida and southern Texas and Louisiana, the satellites show spring coming a tad later, and bizarrely, in a complicated way, global warming can explain that too, the scientists said.

Biological timing is called phenology. Biological spring, which this year began at 12:48 p.m. CDT Wednesday, is based on the tilt of the Earth as it circles the sun. The federal government and some university scientists are so alarmed by the changes that last fall they created a National Phenology Network at the U.S. Geological Survey to monitor these changes.

The idea, said biologist and network director Jake Weltzin, is "to better understand the changes, and more important what do they mean? How does it affect humankind?"

There are winners, losers and lots of unknowns when global warming messes with natural timing. People may appreciate the smaller heating bills from shorter winters, the longer growing season and maybe even better tasting wines from some early grape harvests. But biologists also foresee big problems.

The changes could push some species to extinction. That's because certain plants and animals are dependent on each other for food and shelter. If the plants bloom or bear fruit before animals return or surface from hibernation, the critters could starve. Also, plants that bud too early can be whacked by a late freeze.

The young of tree swallows - which in upstate New York are laying eggs nine days earlier than in the 1960s - often starve in those last gasp cold snaps because insects stop flying in the cold, ornithologists said. University of Maryland biology professor David Inouye noticed an unusually early February robin in his neighborhood this year and noted, "Sometimes the early bird is the one that's killed by the winter storm."

Comments

notajayhawk 6 years, 9 months ago

I moved to this part of the country 17 years (and three days) ago. The temperatures hit the 80's in March, and it seems like that's been a fairly consistent pattern about every other year since. Doesn't look like we're gonna' make it this year, and my lawn is definitely not a green spot you can see from space.

My parents, who live in New England, have used over 50% more heating oil (in gallons, not dollars) this year. I don't know what part of "upstate" NY the swallows are hatching in, but I have friends and relatives all over that part of the US, and they've all been complaining about an unusually cold and prolonged winter.

Maybe we should call it "globe-trotting warming," 'cause it sure as heck isn't "global." Or maybe these frikkin' scientists should stop looking at their computers and stick their heads out the window, from which they might find out that it's gosh-darned cold outside!!!

lounger 6 years, 9 months ago

Global Warming is here - no doubt about it. The effects of global warming are not so concrete. This winter in Kansas was, well like winter! All the computer models and all the speculation are just that-speculation. It might cause the earth to compensate for warmth by cooling itself down in certain parts of the world. Other parts of the planet might just burn up. No one knows what our out of balance planet will do. The only smart thing for us to do is not deny and get to work NOW on reducing greenhouse gasses.

gr 6 years, 9 months ago

"No one knows what our out of balance planet will do."

versus:

"The only smart thing for us to do is not deny and get to work NOW on reducing greenhouse gasses."

If you don't see the contradiction of those two statements, I don't know what you would notice.

================

"Or maybe these frikkin' scientists should stop looking at their computers and stick their heads out the window"

Actually, they are: http://epw.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?FuseAction=Minority.Blogs&ContentRecord_id=5ceaedb7-802a-23ad-4bfe-9e32747616f9

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years, 9 months ago

I think it's you who need to stick your head out of your ideological cloak, notajayhawk.

notajayhawk 6 years, 9 months ago

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus (Anonymous) says:

"I think it's you who need to stick your head out of your ideological cloak, notajayhawk."

Ideological, bozo? Coming from you? Now that's amusing. I spoke of personal observations and those repeated to me by people who actually live in some of the areas mentioned. You, on the other hand, are so blindly faithful to the church of Al Gore that you could walk outside and slip on the ice, and say "But, but, but, the scientists said it was hot outside!"

cato_the_elder 6 years, 9 months ago

I was in D.C. two years ago right when the cherry blossoms were to have been in their prime. We all froze our tails off, there were no cherry blossoms, and when they finally did bloom after we left they were nailed almost immediately by a hard freeze. It's absolutely laughable how the "global warming" lemmings tell us that a brutal winter does not negate evidence of man-made "global warming," but a few mature cherry blossoms demonstrate its reality. In the near future this global fraud will be exposed for what it is - a massive, global fraud. And, by the way, quit boring us with information from your "scientists," whose politically-inspired views are hotly disputed by real scientists every day.

jonas 6 years, 9 months ago

Going with O-Bob on this one. The intensity and effects of global warming are yet to be understood, though I think it fairly solid that it is a fact. But shrieking "ZOMG Global warming we'z all gonna die!!!1!!!1" for anything that's out of balance or even slightly irregular for one particular year hurts the real dialog, as above "fraud" comments by Cato demonstrate quite well. The people who don't want to be convinced, and the people who are on the fence, will be influenced, and progress towards understanding and resolution will be delayed.

gr 6 years, 9 months ago

Good point, Jonas! If the cherry blossoms were a week late and someone said see, it's not global warming, then all the alarmists would be saying, one year doesn't make a difference. Go the other direction, and woe, the sky is falling!

Mkh 6 years, 9 months ago

For Billions of years the Earth has been going in cycles of getting hotter and cooler. Amazing some people are still surprised when it happens.

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