Books are a forest and it’s hard to see the trees, except the tall ones or the old ones. But when you enter the forest, it’s the new growth that emits the sunlight....

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Climate and Other Changes

Last year, most of our winter in Northern Minnesota was snowless.  The ground remained brown in the dead way of November.  There were a few snowfalls but they soon melted.  Global warming seemed very real.
I’d never experienced any winter like that in Minnesota.  The winters of my childhood are remembered with drifts at street corners, many feet high after the snow was plowed. Kids could sled on their block and play king of the mountain all over town.  Blizzards came in March and the snow was usually deep.  Winter melts were rare so the snow simply piled up.   

Those winters seem legendary now.  In Duluth, the annual John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon has become a tradition.  Dogsledders from all over compete.  Since 2000, the city is never certain about the race being held because it requires snow deep enough for dogsledders.  The event has been canceled because of “wimpy winters.” 

It crept up on us all.  People up here don’t like to admit that they enjoy warmer temperatures.  They know that the effect of global warming is pernicious in many other areas.  And flash flooding is the downside of global warming in this northern area.  If there is melting in colder regions, the flooding might become very severe and a flash flood like the one Duluth experienced last summer is only a reconstruction.  Outside my window that day, geysers were spraying out of manholes.  I decided to post some eBay packages anyway.  Going over a bridge, I was shocked to see the water roiling near the top of it.  The water was usually thirty or more feet below and it was lucky the bridge was securely constructed of stone because of the overloaded culvert.  It seemed, with damage everywhere, that the reconstruction should include preparation for the next flood like the rebuilding issues after Superstorm Sandy.
The bridge normally, supporting the street above.

Brian Peterson, Star Tribune    This photo reminds me of Dali

 After last year’s brown winter, this year’s is approaching normal.  We’re having days of ten or so below.  Warming generally follows and then a bright new layer of snow, just enough to dust up and clean the boots.   But it’s a Minnesota winter!  This actually gives some sort of hope that weather might stabilize.  Some sort of hope, I wrote, and then heard about a massive snowstorm on the east coast.  In early February, they are having the Minnesota winter we had years ago.  To think the Midwest is usually prepared for two to three feet of snow when the problem with these climate changes is that they are balking changes.  Unneeded snowplows can't be flown to places that are prepared for something else.

Scientific studies might say it’s too late, concerning global warming.  In Minnesota, an expected change would be a decline in the northern spruce and evergreen forest with a future more like the Great Plains, according to Kathleen Weflen in her Minnesota ConservationVolunteer article "The Crossroads of Climate Change."  

Norman Borlaug   From
A few weeks ago, I watched a Minnesota Public Television broadcast about the Nobel prize winner, Norman Borlaug.  In the 1950s, massive starvation was the forecast for many nations.  A plant scientist, Borlaug experimented with wheat, developing disease-resistant wheat, wheat with higher yields, and wheat that could withstand particular soils.  After the introduction of these varieties, other nations could soon nourish their poor.  The prediction of starvation did not come about at the numbers thought.  Borlaug emphasized that feeding the world could only happen with attention to overpopulation.
His work changed the predictions about hunger within a few decades.  It is amazing what technology can do, given its power to work on imminent issues.  Trees were being felled and forests were being cleared because of our past reliance on paper.  Then, there wasn’t an immediate solution.  Within a few years though, because of digital technology, offices, schools, and even libraries could function as well or better without that huge reliance.  Digital publishing practically pounced upon writers and editors, a development that happened much more quickly than expected.  Human history is replete with solutions for survival.  But history probably shows that humankind needs to feel the pinches of existence before solutions are sought.

The world became overpopulated and countries sought knowledge concerning outer space and near planets.  During this, Jacques Cousteau continued his work underwater.  His start was modest and his Calypso ship had to be funded by a businessman at first.  After his invention of the aqualung, accomplished while he spied for the French underground at the ocean coast, he found a living world underwater.  Because I haven't mentioned any books in this blog, I must recommend his books for the wonder and the silver linings in the billows of exploration. 

Solutions for scientific problems can be surprising.  NASA finds rocks and gas.  Underwater scientists find all kinds of things and in forms that would seem to be from science fiction.  Yet there have been phenomenal answers to these quests that might be spurred by human desperation.