Climate change shifting European seasons

Global warming doesn’t get half as much coverage or have as much direct relevance in the scope of the daily news as Peak Oil does mainly due to its egalitarian way of spreading the blame for all involved for its genesis. (Do you really think John Bolton will stand up at a UN meeting one day and say, “We’re all responsible for global warming, and it’s going to affect the way we live and the way our children will live in the coming future. Let’s do the best we can to change our lifestyle of overconsumption and try to help the world”?)

This alone doesn’t stop the fact that it has as much, if not more, relevance in determining the course of humanity (at least in the form of mass migrations) as Peak Oil would. As usual, for those in power, the more pressing concern is always how to maintain or hoard that power for themselves, as opposed to taking responsibility for problems caused by incorrect empirical assumptions about progress (e.g., how many members of the human race can be supported; assuming that all economic growth – including the production of waste – is good; counting inefficiences such as the simultaneous import and export of millions of pounds of potatoes, consuming more energy, as positive, et. al).

I’m sure that, if they existed, climatologists from undeveloped countries involved in politics would be much more involved in the criticism of first world policies. But I don’t see any reknowned climatologists coming out of Darfur anytime soon.

Oh, right. Sorry – I forgot that the majority of politicians lack spines. Mea culpa.

In any case, it’s too bad that the climatologists who are attempting to take a stand for the issue are being muzzled or marginalized as fringe lunatics with an axe to grind against the government. Gotta love those government-sponsored ad hominems, eh? (Besides, the government these days doesn’t seem to have much of a belief in science or even the majority of opinion).

David Fickling
Friday August 25, 2006
Guardian Unlimited

Spring is arriving sooner and autumn is starting later because of climate change, according to a study of more than 500 plants and animals across Europe.Scientists found that events associated with the start of spring – such as the flowering and leafing of plants and activities of certain animal species – were now appearing six to eight days earlier across the continent than they did 30 years ago.

Britain saw an even more dramatic change, with spring events happening 10 days earlier and particular species seeing even earlier flowerings. Wild cherry trees are now flowering two weeks earlier than they did in the 1970s, the report found.

The study of 542 plants and 19 animals from 1971 to 2000 found 78% of plants flowering, leafing and fruiting earlier, with only 3% waiting longer before the spring change.There was also a marked delay in the arrival of autumn, which arrived an average three days later across the 21 countries surveyed.

Tim Sparks, the UK researcher who co-led the study, said that the change in seasonal dates could disrupt the ecological cycles of many species, as average temperatures rise by 2-5C or more over the coming century.

“There’s a limit to how much earlier these events can get without affecting some of these species. Trees need a rest period during the winter, and if leafing starts happening earlier, that period becomes shorter,” he said.

Migratory cuckoos, whose arrival has long been one of the traditional signs of spring, can also be affected by the changes, as the insects they feed on and the plants that the insects feed on start emerging earlier in the year.

But Dr Sparks said that a 30% decline in the population of British cuckoos meant that they were no longer a reliable marker of the season, and spring-watchers were better off listening out for swallows.

People in Britain may be surprised to learn that the summer season is getting longer after this year’s severe winter and dreary August, but Dr Sparks said that weather over the past month has actually been more typical of the historical average.

“We’ve become accustomed to much warmer years recently, and I think we’re probably so overwhelmed by the temperature in July that when August returned to the rather unimpressive summers that Britain usually has, everyone was surprised,” he said.

He said there was no sure rule of thumb for the start of spring from the flowering and leafing events seen in the UK, with even early flowers such as snowdrops and wood anemones showing markedly different flowering dates in different parts of the country.

Traditionally, spring starts on March 21 with the vernal equinox, the point at which day and night are of equal length and the day starts lengthening towards the summer solstice. But the Met Office caused irritation this year when it attempted to tidy up the seasonal calendar by announcing that the official start of the season would by March 1.

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