Print This Page

DayCreek Journal

January 13 , 2004

Global Warming Close to Home

In the past week, dire predictions have been made by scientists (Nature 427 , 107 - 109 ) regarding global warming and the mass extinction of life upon this planet. Predictions of 1 out of every 10 species of plants and animals may die off by 2050—That's over 1 million species!

Although no one can be sure what the real outcome will be, there is certainly proof that climates are getting warmer around the earth and our country is doing next to nothing to prevent it. (Thank you President Bush.)

Since my cage was rattled by this article, I thought it would be interesting to take a look at the local climate here in the LaCrosse area to see if there are any signs of significant warming over the last 25 years of temperature record keeping. I decided to keep this project somewhat simple, but still provide at least some clues as to the direction we are heading. The following is a table of the number of record highs and lows set at the LaCrosse airport over the last 25 years (1978-2003):

Record High and Low Temperatures (1979-2003)

Month

Highs

Lows

Difference

January

10

2

+8

February

10

6

+4

March

15

2

+13

April

14

7

+7

May

5

7

-2

June

11

7

+4

July

8

4

+4

August

10

6

+4

September

6

4

+2

October

5

5

0

November

12

8

+4

December

8

5

+3

Total

114

63

+51

As you can see, the number of record highs vs. record lows is almost double over the last 25 years. Signs of warming are even more distinct when evaluating the last 10 years worth of data:

Record High and Low Temperatures (1994-2003)

Month Highs Lows Difference
January
7 2 +5
February
4 3 +1
March
5 2 +3
April
3 0 +3
May
2 2 0
June
5 0 +5
July
3 1 +2
August
4 1 +3
September
4 0 +4
October
3 2 +1
November
10 0 +10
December
5 1 +4
Total
55 14 +41

While the last 25 years had double the amount of record highs over record lows, the last 10 years has had four times the number of record highs versus record lows!

There is no doubt that recent trends have been for much warmer conditions in the upper midwest and during the last 10 years the number of record high temperatures has excelerated. 55 out of the 114 record highs have occurred during the last 10 years—almost half!

Is it just a short term anomaly or is this the beginning of major climate change? Official weather record keeping only goes back to the 1880's, so were temperatures during the last century colder than normal? Whatever normal means. What is apparent is the continued loss of natural habitat for the world's plant and animal population. Be it from global warming or the relentless encroachment of "civilization", we are living in a time of unprecedented mass extinction.

The saddest part of all is that although stories like this get headlines, they are swiftly brushed under the carpeting and forgotten by the majority of the public. (There's more interest in Paris Hilton being named "the worst dressed" or undressed for that matter. ) I'm afraid that until some major catastrophe unfolds, the majority of the world's population will be oblivious to what is taking place.

While we are on the subject, most of SE Minnesota is under an extreme drought. (See Map) This has made the top weather story in the area for two years in a row. Here's a news clip from the *NWS in La Crosse, WI:

" The dry conditions started over the 2002-2003 winter with the driest stretch on record. Follow that with a very dry last half to the summer and fall, precipitation totals were well below normal. From July 11th on, Rochester, MN had its second driest stretch on record with only 5.66 inches of precipitation. During the same stretch, La Crosse had 7.01 inches ranking as the 4th driest. Extreme drought level was reached in early October."

This drought has persisted through the current winter season, and as you can see by the above photograph, there is no snow on the ground here in SE Minnesota. Every once and a while an Alberta Clipper may dust the area with an inch or two of snow, but the snow is very dry and has very little moisture content.

Last winter it was pretty much the same story, with most of the major winter storms skirting the area. With very little snow on the ground, this drives the frost deeper into the ground and last year I was concerned that the cistern might freeze solid. I'm not really sure how deep the frost got last winter, but there was enough pressure that water started pushing up through the water pipe leading from the cistern to the house.

To be safe, this year the area above and adjacent to the cistern was packed solid with straw bales (and newspaper bales) in an experiment to see if I could keep the cistern from freezing. I'm happy to report that with the ground frozen solid, there is no ice in the cistern as of this week. I wouldn't be surprised if some ice forms over the top at some point, but the straw bales have been doing their job keeping the cistern warm.

That's about it for now. Most of my time is currently focused on redoing the website. Hopefully sometime by the end of this month or early February the new website will debut.

*A special "Thanks" goes out to the staff at the National Weather Service in La Crosse, Wisconsin. Their web site is a great source of information and they also provide a great service to the Coulee region. Click here if you would like to visit their web site.

 

Here's a view of the straw bales that have kept the cistern from freezing.