The past few days have been summer-like here in Wisconsin. The temperatures have been in the mid seventies with lots of sunshine to convince us that winter is officially over. On the one hand that is great; on the other hand it's kind of scary.
With all the talk about global warming, I can't help thinking that there is definitely something different about our climate. Here it is the last week of March and it feels like the first week of June. I have no definitive proof that the earth is getting warmer each year, only anecdotal evidence that here in my little spot of the earth things are not the same as they were before.
Starting back in 1985, we would take off for a Florida vacation each Easter week, which was generally the first week of April, give or take a few days. We would load up the van in the cold and often snowy conditions, dteaming all the while about the warmth and sunshine that was just a 24 hour drive away. It was always a thrill to see the trees budding as we traveled southward into the earlier springtime of the southern states. When we would start out from home, none of the new daffodils or tulips would be pushing up, tentatively testing the atmosphere for congeniality. The grass we could see where the snow had melted would be brown and tired looking from the long struggle against the cold. The dirty gray curbside snow mounds would just be melting enough to make the roads wet and sloppy, leaving our van streaked and dirty with salt spray from the roads. We would leave home bundled in our winter jackets and sweatshirts, eager to shed them at the first sign of the promised warmth. That first hint of pleasant temps would usually be found as we drove through Kentucky and on into Tennessee.
But now it seems silly to go to the trouble of loading up the van for an excursion to find warmth and definite Spring. The daffodils and tulips are already half grown. The grass has greened up nicely and will need cutting soon. I've already fertilized the lawn with its first feeding, when in the past that would not occur until mid-April. Spring arrived well ahead of its meteorologically scheduled time. Something has caused all these changes and it isn't a freakish anomoly anymore.
Not only is Spring arriving early, but Fall is extending its stay well past the old alloted time. In the past few years it has not been unusual to see golfers on the course into December. This past Christmas the weather was mild enough for some of the golf courses to open for play. The mild weather that has replaced the old blustery cold has also meant that the lakes remain lkquid and not frozen far longer. Some people around here can't seem to grasp the idea that the lakes would not be frozen in mid-December and then drive their snowmobiles and even cars onto the thin ice causing all kinds of tragic mayhem.
Winter sports enthusiasts have had a difficult time satisfying their love of the winter outdoors, since snow has often been in short supply. And even when we get a heavy snowfall, as happened in the first week of last December, the mild temperatures that followed melted all that snow within a week. In the past we would spend Thanksgiving at our lake cottage in central Wisconsin and most often be able to ice skate on the lake. This year at Christmas time when we went there, there was no snow and the lake had only a light skim of ice on it. January this year was one of the warmest on record. February was finally like the winter we were primed to expect-very cold, lots of snow-but even that was fairly short lived and over before we really got a chance to complain.
According to an article I read in yesterday's newspaper, our average annual temperature has risen almost a full degree over the past twenty years. That may not sound like much of an increase, but what it means in real terms is unmistakable. Migrating birds are arriving back here weeks earlier han they used to, some previously unknown insects in this area have incroached farther north than ever before, wildlife habitats are being threatened by the changes in temperatures causing new species to compete with old for the same territories, lake levels are falling due to the increased evaporation caused by shorter freeze cycles, some native vegetation is dying off, leaving the landscape open to new and intrusive forms of plants, and severe storms like hurrricanes are becoming stonger due to the warmer oceans. All these things are unmistakably documented and qualitative changes due to the warming of the atmosphere. My springtime travel experiences may be anecdotal and unsubstantiated scientifically, but there is no arguing with the facts that stand before us.
If you haven't yet seen AL Gore's film treatise on global warming, "An Inconvenient Truth," see it soon. If you have any doubts about the truth of global warming and its effects on our lives, his presentation will open your eyes to the facts and quite possibly scare the hell out of you. Anyone who still doubts the veracity of the ongoing crisis, is living in abject denial and will most likely drown when the oceans rise to where they have their heads stuck in the sand.
In the meantime, I have lost count of the Robins already in residence in my backyard, I've gotten my lawnmower ready to cut a month earlier than I expected, the tulips are nearly ready to bloom before Easter, and the golf courses are greening up nicely and awaiting me before I've had a chance to work on my swing. In my little corner of the world, global warming is an undeniable fact. I'm living with it right in my own backyard.