For the record – spring is early.

I decided to use this blog, in part, to keep a record of my natural history observations and ideas. This intention has made me more attentive to my natural surroundings and piqued my  already vibrant curiosity. This is especially timely now because I am house-sitting in Gatineau Park where I am surrounded by hardwood forests.

Nonetheless, I have done a poor job recording my observations. As spring bursts forth, things are changing so quickly that it is hard to keep track of it all. Until recently, I was still x-country skiing out my back door three or four times a week and now, suddenly, spring flowers are coming up.

On that note, and for the record, I was out hiking last weekend (April 10th) and was amazed to see the flowers of Blood Root, Trout Lilies, Red Trilliums and Dutchman’s Breeches in full bloom on the south facing forested slopes of the Eardley escarpment. The whiteTrilliums and other species were not far behind.

I cannot say exactly, but my guess is that this is at least three or four weeks early for these species. Also of note, I heard spring peepers singing during the first week of April and heard about a Yellow-rumped warbler that was spotted at Mud Lake in Ottawa sometime during the week of  April 5th.  In my own backyard I saw a Hermit thrush April 13th. This is unusually early for all of these events.

Recently, I heard a meteoroligist on CBC radio explaining that all across Canada it had been the warmest winter in more than 60 years. Yet, despite the warm winter, sea ice cover increased over recent years in one part of the arctic.

These facts quickly became fodder for more climate change debate. For example, the Globe and Mail published this article explaining that climate change skeptics are pointing to this year’s arctic ice cover as evidence that climate change is a hoax.

Is this true?

No.

I am not a climate scientist, but I know enough not to confuse weather with climate.  Climate is a reflection of certain meteorological statistics measured over long periods of time, whereas weather is largely what is happening in our atmosphere now.  One spring season of warm or cold weather is not evidence for or against any massive change in Earth’s climate.

In the case of arctic sea ice, what matters is its decline over the long term, not what happens in any particular year. Small seasonal changes in the ice cover are insignificant when compared to the overall long-term trends. Likewise, any rational person would not describe their child as “sickly” if they got the flu once a year, but were otherwise healthy. Calling that kid sickly is a gross misrepresentation of the overall trend of good health, just as pointing to one year of data relating to sea ice is a gross misrepresentation of the overall trend in arctic sea ice cover.

I do not want to become part of the increasingly dull and prolific climate rhetoric on the internet. Heck, I started out to write a blog about flowers and birds. But I’ve seen folks on both sides of the climate debate using short term data, like weather or bird sightings, as evidence to support their points of view on climate change.  That is frustrating. Absurd even.

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