Global environmental challenges
There Is a Time for Everything — And It’s Changing
Stuart Gaffin is a climate researcher at Columbia University and a regular contributor with his blog “Exhausted Earth”. ThomsonReuters is not responsible for the content – the views are the author’s alone.
Colleagues of mine at Columbia have just published a large study of physical and biological changes recorded around the world since 1970 , during which the globe has been warming.
The massive database they compiled describes an extraordinary and fascinating range of phenomena that would likely be sensitive to climate changes like spring flowering of plants, migration times and ranges for birds, fish and insects, spring river flows from winter snow melt, lake freezing and melting times, pollen release, egg-laying, and even the time that bullfrogs start calling in Spring. (It’s hard to find bullfrogs in a lake but it sure is easy to hear them so I trust that data!)
The database also included long-term changes in things like mountain glaciers, lake algae levels, permafrost and alpine tree ranges. In all, close to 30,000 records were studied. They found that around 90% of the records showed a change that is consistent with a warmer climate. So, for example, leaves and flowers are budding earlier, ground hogs in the Rockies end hibernation earlier, mountain glaciers are retreating, there are earlier high water river flows and so on.
We know the planet has been warming but this study shows how sensitive living and physical systems are to temperature changes already. Now try to imagine what it will be like if we get three times the warming of the last century, as is roughly predicted.