Sunday, January 11, 2009

"A change in the weather is known to be extreme
But what's the sense of changing horses in midstream?"_Bob Dylan, from "You're a Big Girl Now.

Dylan had a way with words, we all know that, but did he predict climate change?
Probably not consciously, but the evidence that something is changing is quite obvious -- even to the amateur naturalist.

Droughts come and go. Weather warms and cools in cycles. It always has. But obviously something’s happening with the climate .."You don't need a weather man..." as Dylan also sang in a more popular lyric.

Ask anyone who's out in the woods or on the big lake if they've ever seen anything like this: Shoals popping up where you used to sail over with no concerns for your keel. Try to dig lately last summer? Dry dirt (red clay) for several feet down even in the late spring.

Global warming. It’s everywhere. According to climate scientists, last year was the warmest year on average throughout the United States in more than 100 years in 48 states. Furthermore, the last nine years have all compared with last year in average temperature, they just didn’t peak quite as high.

For us lay people, that means it’s hot.

Up until the late 1980s, the record temperature of a high-altitude town in Colorado called Fairplay was 79. The town most recently made famous by South Park is at almost 10,000 feet above sea level. But a few years ago, the high temp topped 80 and above. Since then, the little town atop the Rocky Mountains has experienced several days in the 80s.

As a Scout decades ago, I remember camping up north here and experiencing cool weather every morning during any month of the year. It was never hot, in fact we didn't spend much time in the water -- even in the inland lakes -- because we just didn't need to go in to cool off. It just wasn't that warm.

Ask that old farmer who used to plant cool weather seed crops about the weather. Now he's buying corn seed and planting it, not to eat, but as a cash crop for bio-fuels.

Other seed crops are also being considered to fuel vehicles too, and start-up efforts to develop these innovative alternative fuel centers have been popping up north here for the last few years. A small-scale center is even being considered for the Ashland area.

Whether you call it global warming or climate change or whatever -- predicting the weather has gone mainstream.

Even as early as the 70s, a small group of scientists had been predicting global warming. Few, unfortunately, believed them. Some even considered these people out of touch with reality; the rest ignored their findings and considered the idea that humans could actually change weather patterns significantly as radical or far-fetched.

The reality is, however, that climate change is progressing faster than even many of those scientists thought it would. We’ve all heard reports about melting glaciers and icebergs, but take a look around at our own backyard.

Local indications of climate change are just as convincing.

Right here in Ashland, the pilings of the former oredocks have always stuck out of the water, but more and more of them are becoming visible. The water at the beaches in Lake Superior is bearable during more of the summer,.

Last summer the temperature soared in the 100’s more than a couple times. Many summer evenings, which once were always cool, are often warm. No one used to have air conditioning in the northwoods; now it’s standard in new spec home construction to install central air.

Even the Lake Carriers' Association out of Cleveland blames falling water levels of the Great Lakes, along with a "lack of adequate dredging," as a leading factor as to why shipments of cargo on the Great Lakes fell almost a third from last year at this time. And although that speaks more about the present drought, it could very well indicate a trend, and even worsen if the weather doesn't get back to normal.

Right here in Ashland, the pilings of the former oredocks have always stuck out of the water, but more and more of them are becoming visible.

Today, few well-versed scientists doubt we aren't changing the weather at a very fast rate. The popularity of Al Gore's award-winning movie "An Inconvenient Truth," indicates a popular attraction to the idea that we are indeed warming the planet through emissions of carbon dioxide.

So maybe Dylan was a little ahead of his time. Speaking of Dylan, there’s throwing another birthday bash for him up in Hibbing, Minn. in May again.

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