Here in California, Spring has not yet sprung (officially) and already we’ve had several days where the temperature edged into the 80s and 90s. While that may not seem interesting, California being known for it’s year round sunshine, the unseasonably warm weather seems to be is part of a nationwide trend. In the decidedly less beachy states of Massachusetts and Wisconsin, various species of flowers popped into bloom earlier in the season than ever before thanks to the unusually warm Springs of 2010 and 2012. Researchers have proclaimed that this may be evidence that plants are adapting to the rapidly changing climate.
We’ve all heard news blurbs about global warming. Many people have argued that claims of climate shift are blown out of proportion by the media. A major complaint of the these naysayers has been that such changes cannot accurately be reported. Why? Well the data required would have to span back into time periods where our instruments for measuring temperature and the many affects of an altered climate would not have been as accurate as those used today. Flowers it seems, may prove to be the great equalizer in this ongoing debate.
Records going back over 150 years appear to indicate that wildflowers have been bursting into bloom earlier and earlier as our climate gradually warms. That means that as early as 1863, the planet has been slowly simmering to a boil. While we didn’t have the widespread automotive travel often blamed for circulating greenhouse gases and propelling global warming that we do today, 1863 falls after the first and smack dab in the middle of the 2nd Industrial Revolution.
The first Industrial Revolution refers to the span of years between 1760 to the mid 1800′s, when many products that were once made by hand began to be mass produced using machines at factories. Many of these machines were powered by burning coal, which produces carbon dioxide gas, the leading cause of global warming. Many things produce carbon dioxide, in fact, you and I produce this gas every time we exhale. The difference is the amount. In your entire lifetime, you could never produce as much carbon dioxide as a factory puts out in a work day. The first industrial revolution was also the first time in history that such massive amounts of the gas were vented into the air. The second Industrial Revolution refers to the period of time between 1840 and 1870 when manufacturers were able to even further expand their reach and therefore the need for increased production due to the widespread use of railroads and steam powered ships (both which required the use of coal to run.) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Industrial_Revolution
The flowers changing their bloom patterns aren’t the first example of man’s impact on the environment. Prior to the Industrial revolution, the peppered moth of England had a light, greyish white color. This color helped it blend in with the lightly colored trunks of the trees and lichens where they dwelled, making it harder for predators to find them.
The industrial revolution produced so much soot from burning coal that many of the lichens died from the sulphur dioxide emissions (a chemical biproduct of burning coal), and the trunks of trees were stained black. Moths that were still light in color now had no place to hide and were snatched up as a tasty meal by birds and other animals who fed on them. Occasionally, a dark moth was born. These dark moths, who had once stood out like sore thumbs on the pale tree trunks now had the advantage. The dark moths were less likely to be eaten, and so they were the ones who survived to breed. They produced more dark moths, and soon the peppered moth became predominantly black in color. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peppered_moth_evolution
Today, both kinds of moths exist thanks to cleaner standards in factory emissions.
As far as the early blooming blossoms are concerned, scientists have found that every degree Fahrenheit the temperature raises causes flowers to come into bloom 2.3 days earlier. Some of the data and observations made are actually from the author, poet and naturalist Henry David Thoreau (July 12, 1817 – May 6, 1862). Thoreau kept meticulous records on the dates of spring blooming in the areas surrounding Walden Pond of Massachusetts. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henry_David_Thoreau What was a labor of love for him then provides us with information we can use now to show evidence of global warming and gain momentum in the movement to make real and lasting changes for the preservation of our environment.