News Stories

Climate Change: For the Birds?and Humans

We've written in the past about how the pole shift, which is going on right now, is confusing migratory birds. Now we've discovered that global warming is confusing them too, by causing them to take off for their winter destinations too soon.

Bjorn Carey writes in LiveScience.com that spring is arriving earlier. Another problem is that this causes fruit to ripen and insects to appear earlier as well, which means they die earlier too, forcing newly-hatched chicks to go hungry when their parents can't find enough food for them.

Climatologists want to know how global warming affected the earth in the past, so we can predict how it will affect us in the future. Researchers from the Byrd Polar Research Center compared climate records from ice cores drilled through ice caps and glaciers in seven remote locations north and south of the equator.

They've discovered the same thing that space satellites have seen: high-altitude glaciers in the planet's tropical regions are retreating rapidly and will disappear in the near future. Comparing ice cores taken from the South American Andes and the Asian Himalayas, researchers have discovered that a massive climate shift to a cooler era occurred just over 5,000 years ago, and a more recent reversal to a much warmer world happened within the last 50 years, probably due to an increase in human activity that produces greenhouse gases.

Geologist Lonnie Thompson says, "We have a record going back 2,000 years and when you plot it out, you can see the Medieval Warm Period (MWP) and the Little Ice Age (LIA). During the MWP, 700 to 1,000 years ago, the climate warmed in some parts of the world. The MWP was followed by the LIA, a sudden onset of colder temperatures marked by advancing glaciers in Europe and North America.

"And in that same record, you can clearly see the 20th Century and the thing that stands out?whether you look at individual cores or the composite of all [of them] is how unusually warm the last 50 years have been. There hasn't been anything in the record like it, not even the MWP...things are dramatically changing. That's the real story here.

"What this is really telling us is that our climate system is sensitive, it can change abruptly due to either natural or to human forces. If what happened 5,000 years ago were to happen today, it would have far-reaching social and economic implications for the entire planet. The take-home message is that global climate can change abruptly, and with 6.5 billion people inhabiting the planet, that's serious."

Art credit: gimp-savvy.com

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