Archive for November, 2017


Adult Brown Booby

Scientists have been making predictions about the effects of climate change for the past couple of decades. One such prediction is that as the earth’s climate becomes warmer the geographic range of species will shift towards the poles and up-slope. This will occur because species will be moving to try to find areas that have the environmental conditions they have evolved to thrive in. So, a species that evolved in a temperate region such as California will be used to the temperatures found in California. As the earth warms, California will warm and the species that are adapted to life here will have move north to Oregon, Washington, or even farther north to find the temperatures they can tolerate.

BRBO - Ventura County Star 2

Adult Brown Boobies in flight.

Yet another example of these predictions coming true has been found on the Channel Islands of the southern California coast. Sutil Island is a small, rocky formation a little to the southwest of Santa Barbara Island and is part of the Channel Islands National Park. This year it has received a new visitor. About 100 Brown Boobies (Sula leucogaster) were observed by Channel Island biologists roosting on the island. Especially noteworthy was that among those 100 or birds were 4 nests! Brown Boobies are generally thought of as a tropical species, but they have been expanding their range north since the 1990s, and this is the first time they have nested on the Channel Islands. There is little doubt but that they will return next year, and likely in greater numbers.

This is what climate change looks like.

BRBO - Ventura County Star

A Brown Booby preening on Sutil Island.


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A news report from The Tribune caught my eye a couple of days ago. It is a piece, which you can read here, on king tides. The gravitational pull from the moon causes the water on the oceans of the earth to bulge out towards and away from the moon, and to pull in at right angles to the moon. This is what causes tides on earth. The gravitational pull from the sun does the same thing.

King tides occur when the pull of the sun and the pull of the moon line up, aided by other weather factors, and result in the highest tides of the year. And that is going to happen fairly soon. The maximum high and low tides for California will occur on December 4th causing the tides along the California coast to change by as much as 8 feet! This is going to mean some impressive high tides with possible flooding and increased wave action, and also some amazing low tides that will offer up some terrific tide pooling opportunities!

So, go out to the rocky coast at low tide as see what you can find!

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Earth 01

NASA image of Earth.

In 1992, a group of about 1700 scientists signed an open letter to humanity warning of the ecological stressors that human activities were putting on the ecosystems of the earth. In the letter, this international group of scientists outline the various aspects of the natural world that are being pushed to the breaking point.

Now, 15 years later, the situation we find ourselves in has not improved. In fact, it has worsened. The suggestions that those 1700 scientists gave on how to avoid the very foreseeable consequences of humanities consumptive behavior went largely ignored. Another group of scientists are hoping that a second attempt might be more compelling now that many of the predictions produced by climate models are actually appearing. In the U.S., these predictions include the record drought that California and other western U.S. states have recently experienced, the increasing frequency of hurricanes seen off the coast of the southeastern U.S., and the increasing frequency and size of wildfires that have burned


Hurricanes Jose (left), Irma (center), and Maria (right) simultaneously sweeping off the Atlantic Ocean towards North and Central America.

across much of the western U.S. To drive the point home, more then 15,000 scientists have signed a second notice to humanity. In this letter, the authors state that “Soon it will be too late to shift course away from our failing trajectory.”

Too late to shift. Too late to even reduce the impact of the damage of the forces we have already set in motion. We are on a collision course with disaster. The human race is like a person sitting in a car racing towards a stone wall. If the driver sees the wall from far enough away, they can stop the car or turn to avoid a collision all together. If the driver gets closer, there will come a point when a collision becomes certain. But there is still time for that driver to improve the situation. Even if the car is going to crash into the wall, the driver can slam on the breaks to slow the car and possibly only tap the wall. If the driver does not slam on the breaks and only gently taps the breaks, the impact may be significant, but as bad as it could be if the driver does nothing (or steps on the gas!).

Well, humanity has already passed the point where a turn could prevent a collision completely. We saw the wall coming and decided decades ago to keep driving. Now we are in the space where we can slam on the breaks (dramatically reducing CO2 emissions), tap the breaks (somewhat reducing CO2 emissions), do nothing (and continue emitting CO2 at our current levels), or hit the gas (increasing CO2 emissions). But we are not going to be in that space for much longer. In the next few years, we will have committed to the course we are on, and the actions we will have taken will play out across the coming generations.

At present, with the U.S. backing out of the Paris Climate Accord and the current administrations trend toward reducing limits on CO2 and other greenhouse gasses, it is looking more and more like we will hit the wall at the high speed we are currently travelling at, and that massive destruction will be the result.

I think it is very important to remember that the changes in climate that we are seeing across the U.S. and world were predicted to occur. They do not come as a surprise to anyone who has been bothering to pay attention. Now as more predictions are being made about the effects that climate change will have in the future, there should, again, be no surprises if only people would bother to pay attention.


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