I didn’t realize Ottawa was that cold

Ottawa architect builds home office in back yard photo

Ottawa, Canada is the second coldest capital city in the world, after Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. Not the kind of place that you would expect people to be building home offices in the back yard, but architect Kevin Deevey did. It is a simple, modern design with commercial aluminum window frames, dark exterior plywood and a big of corrugated metal….

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Pine beetles doing more damage than first estimated

Article by Mitchell Anderson April 24, 2008

Climate Change and Pine Beetles

To understand just how complex, scary and immediate climate change is, look no further than the case of the tiny mountain pine beetle.

Populations of this tree-eating insect have exploded over the last ten years due to warmer winters, devastating the majestic forests of western Canada and destroying over $20 billion in timber.

Now comes a frightening study published in the prestigious journal Nature that that the huge swaths of dead trees killed by the beetles are themselves emitting enormous quantities of carbon into the atmosphere as they decompose – further exacerbating our climate problems.

How much carbon? By altering the climate in western Canada, we have un-leased a chain of events that will release of close to one billion tonnes of carbon into the atmosphere by 2020. This is more than five times as much as the annual emissions from all forms of transportation in Canada.

Dr. Werner Kurz of Natural Resources Canada has been researching the devastating impacts of the mountain pine beetle for many years. This rice-sized insect is endemic to western Canadian evergreen forests and makes its living by burrowing into pine trees and eating the soft tissue beneath the bark. Too many beetles can overwhelm a healthy tree and kill it.

For thousands of years none of this was a particular problem. Beetle populations were kept in check by Canadian winter frosts that reliably plummeted below minus 40. Trees and forests lived in chilly equilibrium.

Enter climate change. It has been over a decade since winters have been cold enough to significantly knock back the beetles and their numbers have exploded. Over 130,000 square kilometers of pine forests have been devastated – an area the size of Greece.

This epidemic has clobbered the economy of the province, which was highly dependant on the forest industry. More than 25,000 forest dependant families will be impacted for the next 80 years. Over $100 million of public money has been spent trying to control the spread of the beetle, but all experts agree that the only hope is colder winters.

Dr.. Kurz’s research demonstrates the dangerous complexities of playing with the thermostat of the planet. This new source of atmospheric carbon from by decomposing trees is an excellent example of what scientists call “positive feedback loops ”.

The rest of us might better describe these unplanned accelerations of climate change as the “holy crap factor ”. Besides pine beetles killing forests that later decompose, here are some other “holy crap” scenarios we can expect from global warming in the near future:

– Melting sea ice causes less sunlight to be reflected into space, further heating artic oceans.
– Melting permafrost in the artic releases massive quantities of CO2 from decomposing muskeg.
– Melting tundra also releases large amounts of methane – twenty-five times as powerful a greenhouse gas as CO2.

It’s becoming clear that we really don’t have a good handle on how this planet works. Before we twist any more dials, maybe we should sit down and read the owner’s manual. If we did, I suspect we would find a warning in the first few pages that read: “DANGER – DO NOT OVERLOAD THE ATMOSPHERE WITH CARBON DIOXIDE!”

Many more nasty surprises like the pine beetle lie in store for us as we continue our uncontrolled experiment with the plant’s atmosphere, and we ignore these milestones at our peril.

Boy did we ever mess up

I was reading this from The Message Bible, we certainly blew this one didn’t we.


BibleGateway.com – Passage Lookup: Genesis 1; via kwout

There are so many ways that we human beings have failed to do this.

Fish in the sea What about the fish in the sea?

  • Wild salmon are being threatened by our fish farming practices – Canada
  • Sturgeon endangered, the flow of their breeding river was altered – Canada

birds in the airWhat about the birds in the air?

  • Spotted Owl is disappearing from our forest because of logging – Canada
  • Robins are being poisoned by pesticides – Canada

EarthWhat about the earth itself?

animalsWhat about every animal that moves on the face of the Earth?

Camouflage is failing due to global warming

A common trait of many of the animals of the Arctic is the color white. Rabbits and baby seals are white so that predators cannot see them hiding in the snow. Polar bears and foxes are white so that the rabbits and baby seals can’t see them coming toward them in the snow.

However according to a documentary I saw a couple of days ago, that is changing. The documentary specifically mentioned the Arctic Rabbit which scientists are discovering is still changing its color around the time it has always done, but the ground is not yet covered with snow. This is making them easy prey as they stand out clearly against the green and brown tundra.

The fact that the snow is not returning at the usual time is going to affect all the animals who live in the Arctic and other northern regions, whether predator or prey. Global warming is coming too fast for them to adapt.

A rare few may even leave the Arctic to search for prey elsewhere. A polar bear has been documented as leaving its home near the Arctic Sea and has been seen hiking south. I wonder if she could be called a Snow Bird, as many Canadians are labeled who go south for the winter. I can’t say that blame her, can you?

Wandering Polar Bear heads south again

Walrus on the move

Thousands of walrus have appeared on Alaska’s northwest coast in what conservationists are calling a dramatic consequence of global warming melting the Arctic sea ice.
Alaska’s walrus, especially breeding females, in summer and fall are usually found on the Arctic ice pack. But the lowest summer ice cap on record put sea ice far north of the outer continental shelf, the shallow, life-rich shelf of ocean bottom.

Walrus feed on clams, snails and other bottom dwellers. Given the choice between an ice platform over water beyond their 630-foot diving range or gathering spots on shore, thousands of walrus picked Alaska’s rocky beaches.

Starting in July, several thousand walrus abandoned the ice pack for gathering spots known as haul outs on a remote, 300-mile stretch of Alaska coastline. Biologists fear walrus will suffer nutritional stress if they are concentrated on shoreline rather than spread over thousands of miles of sea ice.

Walrus need either ice or land to rest. Unlike seals, they cannot swim indefinitely and must pause after foraging. As the ice edge melts and moves north in spring and summer, sea ice gives calves a platform on which to rest while females dive to feed. Lack of sea ice is at the heart of upcoming problems for walrus, and the problem of maintaining ice is way beyond us.

U.S. Marine Mammal Commission

Dragonflies, open water reveal rapid Arctic change

Pierre Tautu doesn’t know whether it’s global warming or something else, but over the summer he noticed strange things happening around his Nunavut home in Chesterfield Inlet, at the top of Hudson Bay.

“We still have ice year-round, but there’s been a little bit of changes,” he said.

“Different kinds of insects and different kind of birds that come around our area now.”

His hamlet (population 330) is a prime nesting ground for a variety of birds, but last summer the 44-year-old hunter and guide spotted a type of owl he had never seen that far north. For the first time, he also saw a dragonfly in his Inuit community.

“We don’t have dragonflies around, but I’ve seen one,” Mr. Tautu said. “This was just out in our backyard and I was pretty surprised to see one.”

Changes to the environment and climate are usually imperceptible and are visible only when the increments build up over time and result in a trend. But in the summer of 2007, both anecdotal and quantifiable evidence emerged that showed dramatic changes are taking place in the Far North at a faster pace than anyone imagined.

The fabled Northwest Passage is normally still choked with ice during the summer. At its usual low point, 14 per cent of the shipping route remains covered with ice, which prevents ships from passing unless escorted by icebreakers. This year, just 2 per cent was covered with ice, resulting in the second consecutive summer during which an unaided sailboat could pass through.

Back in Chesterfield Inlet yesterday, the snow was flying and the freeze was setting in. “It still looks normal,” Mr. Tautu said. He’s not worried about a big melt, figuring the polar bears, other animals and people will adapt. Snow and ice, he said, will always be there. Still, he added, times have changed since his elders could read the weather better than any scientist.

“I was taught about the weather when I was a little boy,” he said. “Nowadays we can’t predict it any more.”

Dragonflies, open water reveal rapid Arctic change
DAWN WALTON From Thursday’s Globe and Mail
October 4, 2007 at 12:03 AM EDT