Global Weirding at Work: Oil Spills, Sea Turtle Eggs, and Unpredictability
Summer took a long time to arrive this year in Montana. June was filled with wet, cool days; the snowpack built up all through the spring, and our rivers in Missoula ran at or above flood stage. July’s oil spill into the Yellowstone River may have been triggered by unseasonably high water levels. How does all this fit with theories about global warming? Should we start calling it “global weirding” instead?
Variation is built into the study of climate, of course. Shifts from season to season tell the main story; but specific weather events provide the details. Scientists, farmers, and average people used to know what to expect during certain seasons, months, even weeks.
But the past few years have been increasingly weird. After the heavy snowfall along the East Coast last winter, Thomas Friedman began using the term “global weirding” last year in a New York Times editorial:
“The fact that it has snowed like crazy in Washington, D.C. — while it has rained at the Winter Olympics in Canada, while Australia is having a record 13-year drought — is right in line with what every major study on climate change predicts: The weather will get weird; some areas will get more precipitation than ever; others will become drier than ever.”
As seasons shift and weather patterns become more unpredictable, the big question is how global weirding will affect already-fragile ecosystems, like the ones where EPI works. Sea turtles are very sensitive to water temperature – will warmer oceans affect sea turtle populations and the gender of their eggs? Will extended droughts give rise to new diseases and push some plant species out of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem?
We really don’t know yet. That’s why studying what’s happening on the ground is so important today. How have you seen “global weirding” play out where you live?