Monday, 15 February 2010

Another misty morning

The safari was out at the usual time this morning – no late lie-in today (if you can call a weekend 7.00am start a lie-in) so it was still pitch black. Misty again too but not frosty, it felt somewhat mild with the temperature around 3°C. The still dawn air was heavy with the strong aroma of chocolate from the nearby biscuit factory – Bourbons being baked today me thinks…mmmmm.
Not much about except for a few early rising Blackbirds which were tuning up rather than singing properly. The usual Robins were giving it rice in the streetlights but none in the dark park. That was about it apart from a couple of Dunnocks – they’ve been really unobtrusive until recently – unless they’ve nicked off somewhere to avoid the weather and just got back. Are they something you ringers out there catch many of?
Driving in to work there was a thick low mist over the sea. In fact coming down the Prom we could only see the top half of the tower. So not worth having an early morning pre-work blimp. We had to wait a little while until after nine to get out for a few minutes.
A few short minutes was all it was. The short horizon still disappeared in a haze of low mist but we managed to find about half a dozen Cormorants fishing away in the calm water. A lone Great Crested Grebe didn’t want to be playing gooseberry with a displaying pair a few hundred yards to the south. Best of all was a ‘walking’ year-tick, three Wigeon (52) – two males and a female were sat quietly on the sea not too far offshore. Occasionally we see them fly past but very rarely do we see them actually sat out there riding the waves – or wavelets in today’s case.
To be extremely in-eloquent...nob all else.
Lunch-time was even worse…even less than nob all if that’s possible. Dire, perhaps?

On a different tack altogether…
Climate scientists have taken a few big hits recently with revelations that data has been mis-represented, hidden or ‘tweaked’ to favour their preferred outcome – or the perhaps the preferred outcome of their political masters who pay for the research.
Today it is alleged that the monitoring stations used to collect temperatures have been moved, or not as in the case of some, so that now they are picking up the urban heat island effect. Others, at altitude or in rural areas, which would tend to show cooler temperatures, have been dropped.
The time has come for them to wake up and smell the coffee – Fair Trade of course – and bring their house back in to some semblance of order.
Is man made climate change happening or not? The problem is still that the sceptics are funded by the ‘opposition’ ie oil and coal interests so proper scientific debate can’t happen.
As the safari posted a few days ago the natural world is telling us something is definitely happening. Here in the UK spring is 11 days earlier than a decade ago. But is it natural or man-made? The natural environment is an extremely complex beast and we are only just beginning to understand a small percentage of the processes through which it functions. Accurate records don’t go back far enough.
One thing we need to look at carefully is the causes and rates of change of temperature on a continental scale over the last (say) 3000 years. Not easy as there have only been accurate thermometers for 10% of this time. Some form of extrapolation is going to be needed. There are tree rings, sediment cores, ice cores and now coral reef cores but these need interpretation and it is in the interpretation of these data sets that the opposing views come to blows. The current I say “it is”, you say “it isn’t” scenario is no good to anyone. There needs to be dialogue between the two factions “I say it is, why do you disagree with me? Can we, together, find the correct explanation for the observed results?”
There is no doubt that observed climatic changes like the Mediaeval Warm Period and the 17th-18C Mini Ice Age were real. What we need to know is how fast the changes took place and, importantly, what caused them and how likely that is going to happen again in the future. What were the effects on the natural vegetation and crop types/yields at those times of change, not at the maxima of each event?
Someone told me that putting an extra bit of CO2 into the atmosphere won’t make any difference as it’s such a small percentage of the total volume of the atmosphere to start with. To counter that you could say that one drop of Rattlesnake venom in your blood is only a small percentage and won’t do you much harm, make you feel a bit woozy perhaps – two drops however is still only a tiny proportion of your total blood volume but will kill you. Are we killing the planet by adding more and more CO2? This is an experiment too far in my opinion. I like to think of myself as a scientist and follow the definition of scientific proof - Hypothesis→Theory→Law but even then Laws may need to be modified or amended as further research or discoveries bring new evidence to light. Therefore a theory is just that until it is proven but in this case I don’t think we have the time to waste waiting for a definitive proof that might not come for two or three generations by which time it could well be too late, which is why statistical analysis of the various probabilities of the various scenarios is needed – of course these can be amended as more research is done and new information/evidence is discovered, that doesn’t make them wrong per se.
For whom is it too late? Civilisation as ‘we’ know it! No, it won’t be the end of humans; it might very well be the end for a lot of humans reducing the population to a fraction of what we have now – no bad thing (as long as I’m not one of them!). It’ll be someone else’s turn to dominate the world – who? – We don’t know and that can’t be predicted – that is what we are most scared of – will we like it when it’s changed and what will the new ‘master race’ do to us or make us do? – It’s all very uncertain and despite being the most adaptable animal on the planet humans don’t like change and uncertainties! What it won’t be is the ‘end of the world’ as the Earth has a various times in its long history been a total snowball and a raging ball of fire, it just happens to be quite comfortable for lots of humans at the moment!
What I do know is that wasting resources and polluting the environment is no use to anyone no matter which civilisation you are from. For example much of the world’s current excess food production is dependent on oil, for machinery fuel, pesticide and fertiliser manufacture. Will we be able to feed ourselves (all 10 billion+ of us) when the oil runs out? Every population of every species has an environmental carrying capacity – basic ecology (not environmentalism but ‘Pure Ecology’) take more from the environment than it can replenish and you go bust. So far advances in technology and medicine have kept us one step ahead of that game – but for how much longer? Apparently in the USA to produce 1000 calories of food at the table takes over 10,000 to get it from the field to the kitchen cooker – The difference is proved by non-renewable oil. That surely is unsustainable!
Apologies for the politics hope it’s not too biased – I’d hate that.
Where to next? Here’s hoping the patches are at least a little bit more exciting tomorrow, we can hardly stand the pace!
In the meantime let us know what’s not being seen in your outback.


Monika said...

It's been astonishing how many skeptics have used the recent big snow storms hitting our east coast as proof against global warming. I'm all for productive dialogue between contrasting view points, but it is very hard to discuss potential explanations for the data when there is such a fundamental disagreement as to what the scope of the problem even is. Clearly, some take the phrase global warming literally, whereas us scientists know that the observed climate change is much more complex than that and can cause all kinds of extreme weather. It's definitely frustrating.

Warren Baker said...

Go on Dave you tell it how it is!

If it wasn't for global warming, this winter would have been as bad as 1963 or 1947. ( not that I remember them of course)

Phil said...

Serious food for thought Dave. You are right to raise it but for most Joe Public it's just too complex and we leave it to the politicians like GB and DC. Oh dear - not much hope for us then.

Forest the Bear said...


We need to go green (yes)

Solar,wind,wave and bio-fuels are the way forward, but the people who tell us this(government)make it so bloody hard to implement these technologies on your home with crappy,stupid planning laws!!

I am not a conspiracy theorist, but by slowing the roll-out of this technology at a domestic level, they can still tell us the climate is warming and slap bloody pointless money making carbon taxes on everything.

The green revolution will not start whilst the MAN is in charge!!

Rant over.

Lancashire and Lakeland Outback Adventure Wildlife Safaris said...

Monika - Like the first swallow of spring one snow storm does not global cooling make!

Phil - thanks for looking in - what really worries me is that no matter who you vote for the government always gets in!

Warren - I can't quite remember 63 either, was only a toddler, but I can remember scaping Jack Frost off the inside of the bedroom windows to see if there were any Redwings in the garden...on rare occasions there were in our Liverpool suburb.

Cheers all