Thursday, February 2, 2012

Global Warming-Fueled Mild Winters Bad News for Groundhogs

groundhogThe same mild temperatures that are bringing up some spring flowers in the middle of winter may cause groundhogs to emerge from hibernation too soon, leaving them without their spring food sources and vulnerable to sudden cold snaps:
Punxsutawney Phil will be pulled from his caged slumber tomorrow to do his faux forecasting duty, but most groundhogs in the wild will sleep through to spring to finish their winter’s hibernation, a seasonal behavior that is key to their long-term survival.

However, with this year’s warm winter, which some experts pin on global warming, biologists say groundhogs and their hibernating brethren might rise closer and closer to Groundhog Day each year as Earth's climate changes.

The balmy weather could snap awake groundhogs and other hibernating animals too early this year, well before their breakfasts are ready and threatening their survival.
Global warming loads the dice for milder winters. How warm has this winter been? The DC area is having its 4th-warmest winter on record & of the 21 warmest January months in DC history, 4 have come since 1998. That fits right into the global trend - 2011 was the 9th-hottest year on record according to NASA. And since 1976, 2011 was the 35th consecutive year that the yearly global temperature was above average.

And it's important to remember how global warming has completely changed the record books - until the late 1990s, 2011 would've been the hottest year on record. Man-made carbon pollution has rewritten our temperature records as thoroughly as steroids rewrote baseball's home run records.
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