Canaries in the Mine and Birds in the Sky: Predicting the Omens of Climate Change

With climate change comes the inevitability. The colder regions of our planet will get warmer and the warmer regions will get warmer.

It is not that climate change will be uniformly distributed around the globe, it will just seem that way. It’s already beginning to seem that way across areas of many continents.

This post will provide details from two bird studies. The first study “looked at 20 years’ worth of data on birds, butterflies and summer temperatures in Europe.” The second study “collected 10 years’ worth of observations when 18 different species of birds arrived at various points across their migration journeys along eastern North America.”

I have used the phrase “canaries in the mine” in several posts because of the significance of canaries as early-warning indicators. The phrase originated from by miners who took canaries down into mines to detect dangerous air quality. The miners knew there was danger when the canary would die. A dead canary saved many human lives. In the world above ground, birds can be effective early-warning monitors for ground level air quality as well.

The two studies cited provide some interesting results of behavioral changes which could prove deadly for birds. For humans, observing these changes would be just one more indicator that something in wrong in the air surrounding Earth.

What good is knowing something is wrong if we can’t or won’t do anything about it?

The first study, Climate Adaptation Difficult for Europe’s Birds has more to do with the speed of adaptation.

“During [the study of data from a 20 year] period, Europe has become warmer and set temperatures have shifted northwards by 250 km. Bird and butterfly communities have not moved at the same rate. Both butterflies and birds respond to climate change, but not fast enough to keep up with an increasingly warm climate.”

The second study, Climate Change, Increasing Temperatures Alter Bird Migration Patterns is revealing because it identified that the

“timing of bird migration is something critical for the overall health of bird species. They have to time it right so they can balance arriving on breeding grounds after there’s no longer a risk of severe winter conditions. If they get it wrong, they may die or may not produce as many young. A change in migration could begin to contribute to population decline, putting many species at risk for extinction.”

It seems that birds don’t have many opportunities to get things wrong. Maybe in the future, neither will humans!

 

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