Sunday, January 27, 2008

Temperatures Climbing in Alaska

USA Today published an interesting chart and overview article back in 2006 about the effects of warming average temperatures and growing seasons on Alaska. Of particular interest is the graph (with tiny text, unfortunately) at the top of the page which shows the temperature variations over the last 1,800 years. Now, of course, anything before the 1860's has to be taken with some skepticism of accuracy, as its derived from second hand sources such as ice cores, but probably accurately reflects the trends in temperature. Its also interesting to see the factoids related to weather embedded in the chart, such as "1300-1350, The little Ice Age in the Northern Hemisphere. Great Faine of 1315-1317 in Europe; crop practices change; Viking colonies in Greenland die out." And just before this string of events that impact the northern hemisphere, the chart shows a dip in the average temperatures of Alaska, reinforcing one of the article's key points, that Alaskan temperature variations are a precursor to temperature changes and impacts elsewhere and over a longer period of time.

The article moves on to discuss some of the impacts that are beginning to be seen in the growing seasons of crops that aren't adapted to changes in growing season, such as cherries in Michigan and plums in California.