Barry Murray of the North Kensington Watershed sent me this articulate article on how everyday Islanders can help track the climate changes that are occurring in our backyards and neighbourhoods. This information is valuable to have now but will be especially valuable in the years to come. With his permission, I share with you this call to action.
Our climate is changing, of that there is no reasonable doubt. A few who really like to argue will continue to debate why it is happening, but, it is happening. During the winter of 1920, there were 20 days below -20 degrees C. In 2011 there were none. These are extremes, but they represent the undeniable trend that our climate, especially during winter months, is warming.
Dr. Adam Fenech is presently the director of the Climate Lab at the University of Prince Edward Island. His research includes collecting and analyzing data from our local environment here on PEI. Dr. Fenech (who shares a 2007 Nobel Prize with those who worked with him on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) states that some of the best indicators of how our climate is changing are observable in our own neighborhoods. Plants are flowering or budding earlier. Wild geese are showing up earlier in the spring and staying later in the fall. Spring peepers, and other frogs, can be heard at earlier dates. The first date when farmers can get on the land, plant potatoes, harvest, see blight or insect pests: these dates are all gradually changing, and the trend is earlier. The opening day of lobster season in years past was often delayed due to ice in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. It was quite common that there would be a delay of opening roughly 50% of the time in years past. In the past 20 years, there have been few if any delays due to ice cover.
There are two general ways that we can contribute to collecting information on our local changing climate.
First, as Islanders, we are a people who keep great records. There are diaries that we, or people we know, have kept that have incredibly valuable climate related information. There are diaries, some dating back for several decades, that have recorded the first day on the land, the last frost in the spring, the first frost in the fall, the first day that smelts were caught, setting day for lobster season, the first day mackerel were caught, first day that apple or cherry blossoms were seen, or spring peepers, migrating birds, Colorado beetle, dandelions and other plants blooming, potato blight, natural ice skating rinks, notable storms or other weather events… there are many possibilities of information that has been recorded that can have huge value to those who study our changing climate closely.
The second way we can contribute is to observe from this time forward those things in our lives that indicate change in our climate. There are many ways of doing this. A good one is by using the website www.naturewatch.ca . There are very good instructions and recording methods for observing ice, plants, frogs, and even worms. It may sound a little off the wall, but if these observations are made carefully, over a long period, in several locations, they will provide high quality information that will be more meaningful than simple temperate data.
Why is this important? Why should we bother digging through old diaries or recording new information? It may come down to how well we may hope to adjust and cope with changing climate in years to come. How will crops adapt to a warming climate? How will new pests affect our farms and gardens? How will the fisheries change, and how will the fishing sectors adapt? Will longer seasons, possibly with more stormy weather, be a benefit to tourism? What kind of homes should we build, or improvements should we make?
If you have information, or would like to contribute, please help with this valuable research by contacting Kensington North Watersheds at email@example.com, or 432-4988. You can also contact Dr. Fenech directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.