Monday, February 05, 2007

The Big Question on Everyone's Lips. Their Chapped Lips.

Groundhog Day this year saw a rare occurence: Punxsutawney Phil actually predicting an early spring. Nobody told most of the country, though. Where I am the wind chill is in the single digits—flip a coin to determine which side of zero—and walking outside makes you feel like the T-1000. Has Phil gone totally mad?

University of Maryland biologist David Inouye suggests the strange behavior of groundhogs this year may be attributable to global climate change:
With this year’s warm winter, which some experts pin on global warming, biologists say groundhogs and their hibernating brethren might rise closer and closer to Groundhog Day each year as Earth's climate changes.

The balmy weather could snap awake groundhogs and other hibernating animals too early this year, well before their breakfasts are ready and threatening their survival.

. . . .

“We’re pretty convinced that this is connected to climate change,” Inouye said. “If the cue that marmots use to decide whether or not to go back into hibernation in April is air temperature and we know because of temperature records that one of the consequences of global warming is supposed to be rising air temperatures, then it seems like it’s a pretty easy link to make.”

. . . .

But groundhogs, also known as woodchucks, actually can emerge from hibernation during a warm spell at any time of the year, said Doug Inkley, wildlife biologist with the National Wildlife Federation.

“The fact of the matter is there’s nothing inherent in woodchuck behavior that says that they’re going to come out on February second, or that what happens on February second is going to be any indication of an early end of winter," Inkley said.
Link. The climate change that has groundhogs and Russian bears waking early is probably also responsible for my suddenly polar city of residence, but for the Arctic, the New York Times' John Tierney suggests, it might be a welcome revision: more trees, more jobs, more ships, more oil, and fewer bears.

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