Tuesday, June 9, 2009

I recently read that the great Nature man, Henry Thoreau’s flower dairies are helping some record abrupt climactic changes. Thoreau organized his eight years of botanical notes into detailed monthly charts, listing the first flowering dates of several hundred species. Some flowers such as bluets are blossoming weeks earlier than Thoreau’s time; others haven’t changed their schedules. Observations from Thoreau and other naturalists reveal that plants are reacting to temperature changes more dramatically than short-distance migratory birds, suggesting that climate change could divide plants from their pollinators. This will make the plants die out faster than they are pollinated. So, the article calls for amateur naturalists to do some record keeping about the signs of the season; and do their part in preserving the climate.

The latest issue of Down to Earth also reveals that in the past 140 years, the decade 1991-2000 was the warmest (with heat wave intensity increasing every year). An anti-cyclone—where winds spiral out from high-pressure center (in Rajasthan)—is warming up by the years, sending heat waves across western and central India. Summers are setting in early March (whereas it was mid April earlier), when average temperature has increased by 0.76°C over the last century. Note this abnormal weather change, with decreasing winter rains. It seems:

“A wind called western disturbance that brings moisture from the Mediterranean Sea, moves from the west to the east of the country, causing winter rains.

Assam receives an average of 25 mm rainfall per month in winter. But this year there was negligible rainfall between November and February. In March, Assam experienced four severe dust storms.

“Some scientists have attributed the abnormally dry winters to lesser number of western disturbances reaching the region…One said this may be due to abnormal heating of the Tibetan plateau. The plateau was warmer than normal by two degrees this February…When a plateau heats up winds over it move horizontally, unlike upwards in the plains. This creates a high pressure over the plateau, which then shoves away winds. So the western disturbance avoided the plateau and flowed north of it.”

Startling as it is; this is phenomenally true of my home-city, Hyderabad (where the scorching May temperatures have risen and risen).

A connected point I read today. John Townsend, a British thinker, wrote: “The course of nature may be easily disturbed, but man will never be able to reverse its laws”. This was in the context of Spaniards releasing a pair of greyhounds on an island of pirates, preying on goats and ships. As the greyhounds multiplied, the goat population fell; with very little to feast on, the greyhounds perished soon and goat population revived. “A balance reset”.

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