Is this climate change?

Being originally from California, I have enjoyed the longer, cool but sunny fall weather we have had in Minnesota in the past few years.

The oaks have held on to their leaves unusually long.

The oaks have held on to their leaves unusually long this year, although the birch trees have finally dropped theirs.

True Minnesotans, however, are anxious for snow and the colder weather that goes along with skiing and sledding.  Instead we have scenes like this through most of November now.

Much of the undergrowth is thickets of invasive buckthorn, which stays green long after other plants have lost their leaves.

Can this scene really be mid-November at 45 N latitude?     This photo was really an attempt to photograph the sun peeking through the trees in a starburst pattern.  For better examples of this technique, view Rachael’s photos at Focused Moments, especially Nov. 11and 12.

I think we all realize that weather patterns are changing, and this graphic below summarizes those changes nicely to show the overall warming trend in a northern U.S. state.  Minimum temperatures (overnight lows) have risen faster than maximum temperatures, with the result that winter temperatures have risen more than the average.

Data from Minnesota Climatology working group:

A break in the otherwise slow linear increase in average temperatures occurs about 1980 in both northern and southern counties in Minnesota.  From 1980 to present, the average temperature has increased 5 times faster than earlier years.   Data from Minnesota Climatology working group:

And the effect of those temperature changes is what we see happening all around us:  delayed leaf drop, delayed snowfall, decreased winter precipitation, earlier ice-out on the lakes, etc.

What will happen (or is happening) to the biota adapted to a previously colder climate?

10 thoughts on “Is this climate change?

  1. Hi Sue,

    The Gray Jays for one are having trouble. They cache pieces of meat and fungi and seeds throughout the winter, and if the temperature isn’t cold enough some of those food items spoil and they may starve. Hopefully they will adapt, but climate change is happening faster than most species can evolve.

  2. Great graph, by the way! It shows that even through there are still extreme cold temperatures on occasion, the overall trend is one of an increase in temperature. This is the kind of chart the climate change deniers need to see when they say “Yeah, but it was -20C last January! Where’s your climate change then, huh?”

    • Yeah, I should have made the point that there is always variability in average year to year temps, but it’s easy to see from the graph that there are many more points in recent years above the 1800-1980 line than below.

  3. Sad to think our kind has a heavy hand in the changes which seem to be speeding things up a bit. I suspect nature will continue to balance things though more folks need to jump on board in support very soon or (even better right now) if we want the naturally occurring changes to be less forceful.

    • Less petro-chemical fuel consumption for a start. I noticed this year that no one rakes their leaves anymore; they use leaf blowers for hours on end to push them into a pile. We are now that averse to a little manual labor!

  4. I was all for warmers winters until I realized that ticks now live through them, so you have to pick off twice as many now. They are also decimating the moose herd here-enough so the Department of Fish and Game is getting worried.

    • Our moose population is declining, too, and the ticks may be a big problem for them here. Invaders from the south (e.g., Japanese beetles and such) survive our milder winters now. Waterfront property on Hudson Bay is looking better and better…☺️

  5. Pingback: a blast from the past | Back Yard Biology

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