Only a Set of Observations


Since man has been recording temperatures in this region never has the month of March been so warm. Temperatures well into the 70′s, about 30 degrees above average, have consumed the entire week. Our flora has been fooled into thinking spring has arrived and has responded with flowers, buds, and the greening of grass. Next week promises to take back this fantasy. The weather forecasters predict highs in the lower 30′s in mid-week, with lows in the teens.

Labrador Tea

This type of deep freeze will wreak havoc on those plants that were fooled. Flowers will be lost, the future of fruits born from these flowers will be dashed. Leaf buds will suffer, but are better prepared for the unpredictable nature of a New England spring. If buds have not broken, the leaves will likely form in a semi-normal state. The buds that have broken, a good example being the ubiquitous red maple, will yield damaged leaves. The leaves may recover with time and fully perform their photosynthesizing function, even if a little misshapen from the damaging freeze.


Sheep laurel, lichen, bedrock

The local newspaper interviewed a scientist at the University of Massachusetts Climate System Research Center. This fellow pointed out that one year does not make any affirmative statements about global warming or climate change. He went on to say that it is the body of evidence over a long period that will help us to make conclusions. I was a bit surprised that he failed to mention that we have nearly three decades of information that support this climate change idea. But as a scientist I knew he was trying to portray himself and his colleagues as the objective observers; those that will wait for all of the data before declaring the result one way or the other.

Bunchberry Dogwood

As an ecologist who spends time in the field and not in some god forsaken laboratory I must admit I’m a little more forward on these matters. In the past decade I’ve witnessed painted turtles sunning themselves on floating logs in February when the ice should have been several feet thick. I’ve seen vernal pool species like spotted salamanders scurrying across dry land in search of breeding habitat in the end of February in 50 degree weather in contrast to previous years there was three to four feet of snow on the ground. In my travels along stream corridors I’ve experienced black flies in early April; a full month before they should emerge from the stream beds in which the larvae inhabit. I’ve stumbled upon one of the earliest woodland wildflowers, spring beauty, well before March 21st and a full month before they traditionally bloom. And I’ve spied black bears emerging from dens in February because of rising temperatures with no substantial spring food on the horizon for weeks if not months. These are but a few of the illustrations I’ve witnessed that make me wonder.

These are merely casual observations. I store them in my head. Within the pure mechanisms of the scientific method I should not draw any conclusions from these encounters. They are simple examples of evidence. To assume they are connected to the changes in weather patterns would be premature.

But still, I can’t help wondering.

What the hell is going on?

Lady Slipper and Bunchberry

  • Barbara

    Oh my goodness – that Lady Slipper – how incredibly beautiful! and how sad because if you photographed it in the past day or so it’s bound to suffer. Yes Bill I’m on the same page.  A few days won’t cause trouble – it’s this extended warming – the changes that your poor salamander experienced…the apple blossoms that will open and no bees or few to pollinate them. That will affect the farmers and ultimately us because prices will go up for food. They HAVE to if it becomes scarce. And the changing climate means that things that take eons to adjust just don’t have time. We’ll lose our polar bears, our salamanders, and who knows what else.

    I am loving my flowers and all I’ve seen, but I’m looking at snails out in the garden and thinking oh oh. There is bound to be another freeze. How many creatures will survive I wonder – the tiny ones upon which we depend even though most people don’t know or understand that. 

    But your flower photos are beautiful Bill, and poignant – they should be out two months or so from now. I hope that you’ll be seeing the same ones next year.

    So I’ll hope and wonder at scientists who disclaim climate change. How any thinking individual can deny it, is beyond me. By I do go on. Thanks for a thoughtful and thought-provoking post.

  • Anonymous

    Bill, I like your photographs, especially the Bunchberry.  I don’t see these flowers here in west Texas.  What is going on with the warming?  The scientist you quoted was waiting for a longitudinal study.  That’s okay, but for now the planet is warming, the Arctic Sea is breaking up and there is a Northwest Passage.  And, black flies emerge a month earlier than they should.  You don’t have to be a weatherman to know from what direction the wind blows.  So, we will accumulate the evidence longitudinally, but at the same time speak out against high-energy consumption, over-consumerism and a host of behaviors that deplete our world of valued resources.  Speaking out is only a first step; many more steps need to be taken.  Thanks for your observations as an ecologist.  

  • Wild_Bill

     You raise a very interesting point Barbara, the impact of climate change on food production.  Massive drought in some areas, floods in others, have already impacted food prices.  But should we lose our pollinators the impacts on crops would be unworldly.  Talk about upsetting the apple cart!

    Thanks for the compliments.  These spring wildflower photos are from last year.

  • Wild_Bill

     Although the jury is still out scientifically it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to understand we are in midst of change.  To not take it seriously would be suicidal.  But, then again, human greed and those who stand to lose control our information sources.

  • Nature Drunk

    Love the photos, Bill. So clear. Your post reminds me of a question my teenage son had for me the other day, “Mom are we going to be alright when the ocean rises and Antarctica is like one mile wide?” I told him we wouldn’t drown if that’s what he meant, but whether we will be alright…I don’t know.

  • Montucky

    I wonder too Bill. Mostly I wonder, no matter what the weather/climate is doing, why we aren’t doing the things that we clearly know we should be doing for the planet that gives us life. I love your photos, by the way!

  • Wild_Bill

     Business and corporate interests fear the issue of climate change because they know sustainable life style practices means less profit.  They consistently attempt to rebuff the notion that our planet is in trouble.  When people stop listening to these greedy sources of information we will make significant progress.

    You have no idea how much I like the idea that you love my photos.  After all you are the master pf the photographic blog!

Nature Blog Network