Archetypal East Coast Trees Are Moving West

❝ As anybody who’s taken a drive through Vermont in the autumn will know, the eastern US has plenty of iconic trees, like maple and oak. But over the past three decades, deciduous tree species in this part of the world seem to be shifting westward, according to new research…Evergreens, meanwhile, are going north.

❝ Past research has tracked how some tree species are moving north for reasons related to climate change. But in Science Advances, researchers looked at 30 years’ worth of tree data from the US Forest Service, including 86 species, reflecting changes between 1980 and 2015 — and, to their surprise, saw this westward shift of deciduous trees. “We show that more tree species have experienced a westward shift than a poleward shift (62%) in their abundance, a trend that is stronger for saplings than adult trees,” it reads.

This wasn’t a modelling exercise that casts forward to something that may happen in the future. Rather, it’s tracking changes that are happening now.

❝ This strange shift appears to be linked to climate change and its accompanying effects. Over the last 30 years, the study says, the mean annual temperature in the eastern US has gone up by 0.16 ̊C, on average, and the northern region has seen the highest increase…

Precipitation patterns are shifting, too: The central US has seen an increase of more than 150 mm total in annual precipitation, and there’s been a reduction in the southeast…

“There is still some skepticism out there about climate change,” Songlin Fei of Purdue University acknowledged. With this study, “we’re saying, let’s look at what’s actually happened. We wanted to show the reality, not speculations.” Our environment is changing more rapidly than many scientists expected. Fei asked: “Is our society ready to adapt?”

Yes, this is probably too short-term to be classified as climatology. But, as Fei correctly characterized, scientists have a habit of being conservative – regardless of propaganda from fossil fuel pimps. The inclination described just may be a short-term trend, e.g., meteorology not climatology.

Pacific Ocean temperatures predict US heat waves 50 days out

The formation of a distinct pattern of sea surface temperatures in the middle of the North Pacific Ocean can predict an increased chance of summer heat waves in the eastern half of the U.S. up to 50 days in advance.

The pattern is a contrast of warmer-than-average water coming up against cooler-than-average seas. When it appears, the odds that extreme heat will strike during a particular week — or even on a particular day — can more than triple, depending on how well-formed the pattern is.

The findings were published in…Nature Geoscience. The lead author is scientist Karen McKinnon of the National Center for Atmospheric Research…

“Summertime heat waves are among the deadliest weather events, and can have big effects on farming, energy use and other critical aspects of society,” said McKinnon. “If we can give city planners and farmers a heads-up that extreme heat is on the way, we might be able to avoid some of the worst consequences…”

For the study, the scientists divided the country into regions that tend to experience extreme heat at the same time. They then focused on the largest of the resulting blocks: a swath that stretches across much of the Midwest and up the East Coast, encompassing important agricultural areas and heavily populated cities.

The researchers looked for a relationship between global sea surface temperature anomalies — waters warmer or cooler than average — and extreme heat in the eastern half of the U.S.

A pattern popped out in the middle of the Pacific, above a point roughly 20 degrees north latitude. The scientists could find the particular configuration of ocean water temperatures, which they named the Pacific Extreme Pattern, not only when the eastern U.S. was already hot, but also in advance of that heat.

RTFA for beaucoup details of the study. I’m looking forward to someone writing a broader relation of the whole process. Fascinating stuff.

Shelter from the cold; well, sort of — Canadian ice-fishing huts

Photographer Richard Johnson has spent the past eight winters traveling through nine of Canada’s ten provinces taking photos of ice fishermen’s huts. The deserted shacks against the desolate background of Canada’s most remote territories creates a strikingly beautiful scene. “It is architecture at its most primitive level,” he says. “It’s shelter. It’s portable. It’s made by the owners of the hut. It’s not pretentious. It is a solution. Every single person needs heat.”

When asked why he enjoys photographing such simple structures he says, “For me, these are really portraits of the individual. But the individual is not present.”

Enjoy larger – and more – photos. From across the width of Canada.

Rise of sea level on the United States’ East Coast accelerating faster than oceans in other parts of the world

Last house on Holland Island, MD – where 360 people used to live

Sea level rise on the U.S. East Coast has accelerated much faster than in other parts of the world—roughly three to four times the global average…Calling the heavily populated region a sea level rise hot spot, researchers warn that cities such as Boston, New York, Philadelphia, and Baltimore could face a more flood-prone future.

Sea levels worldwide are expected to rise as global warming melts ice and causes water to expand. Those levels, though, are expected to vary from place to place, due to factors such as ocean currents, differences in seawater temperature and saltiness, and the Earth’s shape…Now it seems scientists have pinpointed just such a variance.

Analyzing tide-level data from much of North America, U.S. Geological Survey scientists unexpectedly found that sea levels in the 1,000-kilometer stretch of coast from Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, to the Boston area climbed by about 2 to 3.8 millimeters a year, on average, between 1950 and 2009.

Global sea level rise averaged about 0.6 to 1 millimeter annually over the same period.

“If you talk with residents of this hot spot area in their 70s or 80s who’ve lived there all their lives, they’ll tell you water is coming higher now in winter storms than it ever did before,” said study co-author Peter Howd, an oceanographer contracted with the USGS…”We’re now finally getting to the point where we can measure their observations with our highfalutin scientific instruments.”

At New York City, the team extrapolated, sea levels could rise by 20 to 29 centimeters by 2100 — in addition to the roughly 1 meter of average sea level rise expected worldwide by then…For residents of New York and cities up and down the eastern seaboard, those numbers should become a lot more than ink on paper.

“The first thing people will see from this is an increase over the next few decades in the low-level coastal flooding that occurs now with wintertime storms,” Howd said…”Eventually you’ll see coastal flooding events three to four times a year instead of once every three to four years…”

“This could be part of a natural cycle maybe 100 to 200 years long. Or not,” study co-author Howd said. “We need more data over years to help build climate models and greater understanding.”

As you might automagically presume, the response from conservative legislatures is to pass laws which will tell the water to stop rising. North Carolina has a bill in the hopper to ban the use of the latest science and improved methods to base forecasts on these changes. As noted in the article, this is “human nature trying to outwit Mother Nature, and Mother Nature usually wins that battle of wits.”

In the case of climate deniers, we face half-wits.

East Coast Acorn Shortage Mystery

Up and down the East Coast, residents and naturalists alike have been scratching their heads this autumn over a simple question: Where are all the acorns?

Oak trees have shed their leaves, but the usual carpet of acorns is not crunching underfoot….

Virginia extension agent Adam Downing said acorn production runs in cycles, so a lean year is normal after a year with a big crop.

“It fits with the physiology of seed reproduction. The trees are exhausted, energy wise, from last year,” Downing said.

But even he is surprised at the complete absence of nuts in parts of Virginia….

It’s also hard to think of acorns without thinking about squirrels. What happens to them when their favorite food disappears? Some Eastern Seaboard residents have reported seeing skinny, aggressive squirrels devouring bird feed.

I have spent a few years living with and daily observing squirrel communities.  Though I am concerned, I’m skeptical of anecdotal evidence of squirrels dying off from lack of acorns.  A squirrel’s diet can be very varied.  Often when feeding nuts, I have observed a squirrel take a time-out to go eat a mushroom, dig up some vegetation, and so forth.  They are very resourceful, very adaptable, very smart.  I’m more worried when the hurricanes come.  Then, the rehabbers weep.

Oh.. and, uh, they love bird feed.