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Archive for the ‘Climate Change’ Category

The woods awakened this morning under a deep cover of snow.  A fresh snowfall over the holidays is usually welcome, except that it’s Easter today, not Christmas.

The snow likely convinced the spring bulbs to wait a couple more days before blooming.  I thought for sure they’d be open by Easter morning.

mosquito on snow

Mosquito walking on snow

Of course we can always depend on the resilience of certain creatures to hang in there, regardless of the weather.  Above freezing temperatures are anticipated for the rest of the week so all of that snow will soon be history.  Unfortunately, the mosquitos are just getting started.

Happy Easter to all.

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testing Atlantic waters in March

Spring sometimes takes one step forward and two steps backwards…

But this spring’s steps forward and backwards seem more extreme than in the past.   How can I be finding refreshment in the waters of the Atlantic one hot day, and soon afterwards be wondering if I should thaw the water in the birdbath?

The vernal pools in the woods are almost dried up. Unless we receive a lot of rain this spring, we’re going to have a very dry summer as there’s no snow left to melt.

The Cow Bay River in late March 2010 (left) and late March 2012 (right)

The Cow Bay River in late March 2010 at left, and late March 2012 at right

Even the Cow Bay River is looking a bit drier than usual for this time of year.

Under sunny skies on Friday, the waters in the marsh were wild and churning.

On the weekend, they were calm as glass…

So calm, that you can barely tell which of these images is inverted…

March is a time of change, when winter gives way to spring.  The process is never gradual.  But these waters seem more mysterious than ever.

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dawn sunrise march 22 2012
This morning it looked like a hot summer sun was rising on the horizon.  The 25.7 degrees Celsius high yesterday in Halifax broke the previous record by 15 degrees!  (That’s a 59 degree Fahrenheit DIFFERENCE).  In 1979, temperatures here on March 21st reached 10 degrees Celsius.  The average for this time of year is 5 degrees Celsius.  Today’s forecast promises more of the same.

The elderberry trees in the backyard are already showing their buds which is unusual even for them.  They’re the first to flower in springtime.

elderberry leaf buds march 2012
It’s all very strange.  What will happen if we go back to average temperatures later this spring?  I wonder if wildlife is as confused as we are.

still water in cole harbour salt marsh

The waters in the salt marsh looked particularly still this morning.

It was fairly quiet except for the sounds of the songbirds near the woods.  The soft sea breeze was refreshing in the warm sunlight.  It likely won’t be as comfortable walking there later today in the full heat of the midday sun.   It might be a better idea to go to the beach 🙂

 

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dawn sunrise march 21 2012

It’s getting warmer.  And despite Canadians’ delight at enjoying higher temperatures than normal this week, some of us can’t help but wonder about the dark cloud that’s presently revealing this silver lining.  Regardless of what’s causing climate change, its progress seems a lot faster than anticipated only a few years ago.

red backed salamanders

Surely it’s the smaller creatures that will be affected the most by climate change.  We’ve had less precipitation than normal this winter.  If a long, dry summer is to follow, amphibians like the red-backed salamanders shown above will not find the moisture they need to stay healthy.  If spring vernal pools dry up too quickly, they and their kin will have difficulty finding a good moist place to lay their eggs.

spring fly

This past winter likely didn’t kill off as many insects as a colder winter would have.  Yesterday I saw numerous ants active in the flower beds, as well as this fly on the siding.  If there are so many more insects than usual in March, what will their numbers be like in mid-summer?  Will we be overrun by ants?  At least the baby birds will have lots to eat once they are born.

spring robins

These bright and perky robins were singing cheerfully in the woods this morning.  Were they checking out nesting options in the neighborhood or just passing through on their way farther north?  I wonder if they sense a change in the weather.  Like them, we should be out enjoying the blue skies while we have them.  It may feel like summer this week, but we’re bound to see snow again before long.

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And part of the soil is called to wash away
In storms and streams shave close and gnaw the rocks.
Besides, whatever the earth feeds and grows
Is restored to earth. And since she surely is
The womb of all things and their common grave,
Earth must dwindle, you see and take on growth again.
~ Titus Lucretius – On the Nature of Things (1st century BC)

When Captain James Cook charted Cole Harbour on a map of Nova Scotia in the mid-1700s, it was wide and deep enough for tall ships to sail in and out.  Though not as large as Halifax Harbour, it still saw its share of commercial vessels and privateers.

But over the centuries, shifting sands have narrowed the entrance to Cole Harbour.  The harbour seems more like a marsh these days, leaving many residents to wonder about the exact whereabouts of Cole Harbour.  Passage through the entrance is seldom undertaken by vessels of any size due to the strong currents.  Though we might bemoan the recent evidence of erosion along Rainbow Haven Beach,  in Cook’s time, this spit of land didn’t even exist.

Part of a Nova Scotia map by James Cook showing Cole Harbour at far right

In A Tale Of Two Dykes – the Story of Cole Harbour (1979), Margaret Kuhn Campbell explained:

A coast line so irregular seems to fling a challenge to the great energy of the ocean.  It hurls itself at the indentations to remove them – tearing down headlands, filling in bays.  Hartlen Point west of Cow Bay and Osborne Head on its east are two drumlins presently being eroded by the sea.  At the mouth of a bay, it seeks to build a fishhook shaped spit anchored on the curved shore with its point reaching toward the other, constantly growing, until in time it may close the gap.  Then the bay becomes a protected lagoon which catches silt from streams, grows grasses, and thus traps more silt to eventually become marshy to dry land.  Through centuries of toil, the powerful waves compounded such a barrier part way across the mouth of Cole Harbour.

Erosion at Rainbow Haven Beach

The increased frequency of severe storms in our area means we will see more rapid changes to our shorelines in the years ahead.  While some beaches will suffer erosion, others will widen.  The extent to which man can halt or alter these transformations is questionable.  What is inevitable is that these changes will surely affect wildlife as well as residential, recreational and business developments along our coast.

On February 17th, HRM will be hosting a Climate Change Workshop for Eastern Passage and Cow Bay residents.  Details of the event can be found at Eastern Passage Online. 

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Spruce trees are silhouetted against the rising sun at Rainbow Haven beach.  Over the years, these trees have endured, despite the salt spray and hurricane force winds.  Like many other trees on the Eastern seaboard, evergreens have shown accelerated growth in recent years.

The lighter, brighter green of this year’s growth is especially remarkable.  Scientists attribute increased growth to the following three factors:

  • Increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere
  • Warmer temperatures
  • An extended growing season

All of the above factors point to climate change as the underlying cause.

Though older trees on the landscape are a sign of strength and endurance, new ones are representative of hope.  While the strange and severe weather often attributed to climate change is a concern, accelerated tree growth is welcomed.

The forest is alive with new life in its many forms.  Below, a witch’s broom growing on a balsam fir, is light yellow-green.

The tree is more than first a seed, then a stem, then a living trunk, and then dead timber.  The tree is a slow, enduring force straining to win the sky.
~ Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

For more information on Witches’ Brooms, see Witches’ Brooms in Winter.

For more information on accelerated tree growth see Science Daily.

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