Climate Change Effects Galloping Ahead

by Val Germann

Evidence continues to accumulate that the effects of climate change are accelerating, especially in the far north. An article appearing today on the TERRADAILY website reports the rapid advance of spruce trees into what was formerly tundra.

Forests of spruce trees and shrubs in parts of northern Canada are taking over what were once tundra landscapes–forcing out the species that lived there. This shift can happen at a much faster speed than scientists originally thought, according to a new University of Alberta study that adds to the growing body of evidence on the effects of climate change.

These effects will be the subjects of special studies in 2007 as the International Polar Year gets underway, half a century after the International Geophysical Year ushered in a new regime for the Earth sciences in general.

The rapid changes in the Arctic regions are of intense interest now because this is where the most dramatic temperature increases have also been seen, increases that theaten even more dramatic modifications in what were once thought to be nearly permanent terrestrial features. The rapidity of these new temperature induced effects has startled nearly everyone.

“The conventional thinking on treeline dynamics has been that advances are very slow because conditions are so harsh at these high latitudes and altitudes,” said Dr. Ryan Danby, from the Department of Biological Sciences. “But what our data indicates is that there was an upslope surge of trees in response to warmer temperatures. It’s like it waited until conditions were just right and then it decided to get up and run, not just walk.”

Yes, indeed, climate change is running, not walking, all across the arctic regions of our planet. Meanwhile, the human response to these changes continues to crawl along, barely making any headway at all. The price for this insane creeping will likely be high, very high, as this brave new century unfolds.

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About Val

I am a long-time teacher of science and astronomy with a strong interest in resource conservation and the environment.
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