AGW in general > Consequences

Climate change, the ocean, agriculture, and FOOD

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EDIT: The ocean is also important to food for us, hence, the change in the header.

EDIT:  Various threads seem to be moving onto the subject of agriculture and its connection to the future of FOOD.  For humans, anyway.  Let us go there.


Jeff Masters recently published a new article on his blog at Wunderground detailing some extreme temperature variations in the U.S. midwest.  I do not live there, so cannot comment personally, but one specific example keeps coming back to me.  In Iowa, two weeks ago, there was record snowfall.  This week temperatures hit up to 106F. 
By no stretch of my imagination can I imagine this can be good for agriculture or local ecological processes in general.  While I do not have any links, I do recall reading somewhere a while ago that the timing of, for example, baby bird births and their food sources are starting to fall out of sync. i wonder if these new extreme swings in temperature might upset microbial processes in the soil?  Kill new springtime plant life necessary for birds, bees, worms, or other creatures so essential to our current understanding of how the world works? The bee thing especially worries me, as colony collapse was pretty bad last year.
Just hoping anybody might have some knowledge or insights.  Here is the link to Dr. Masters' article :

EDIT:  There has been some discussion about this topic on Fishmahboi's 'When and how bad" thread, which I find to be very helpful and engaging.  I am thinking a narrower discussion about the immediate impacts on soil, etc. might be interesting, though.

I'm not an expert, or anywhere near being one - but I think you'll find mismatch in the timings of insects and birds (and all sorts of other things - such as when flowers bloom and so on) has been with us for quite some time now (decades?). This in my view has been the real canary in the coal mine - the Arctic is somehow described as that, but it would seem more apt to describe it as the igniting firedamp that the canaries already died warning us about.

Extreme fluctuations have plenty of scope to damage yield, note the near 100% losses in fruit in some parts of Michigan and other northern states last year - an anomalously hot and early spring gave way to a late frost that wiped out fragile buds almost totally (certainly to the point where attempting harvest was not economically viable - and in fact - almost totally).

I think it would also be relevant to consider insect pests. Insect populations that usually would be kept in check by natural forces (winter) or predators can become a problem very rapidly indeed. For a slower example - I'd point at the pine beetles busy turning extensive swathes of forest into carbon dioxide again. I recall outbreaks of army worms last year in the US - but am unsure how common that is there. Locusts are another example of a hazard that could surprise us by shifting their range - and in situations of social instability (as created by the war in Libya - this disrupted locust spraying in nearby regions causing knock on consequences) the ability of societies to respond can be eroded.

I can't help but feel that there are any number of unpleasant surprises waiting for us in this arena, many of which we won't even suspect until they happen (and the GM pesticide tolerant crops have locked those relying on them into an arms race as the pests are gaining resistances rapidly - as well as apparently placing a critical straw on the back of various pollinators - bees especially).

John Batteen:
I live in Minnesota, and experienced the bizarre weather of which you speak.  When we get these very tall waves in the jet stream, the temperature contrast from one side of the wave to the other is stark.  There was frost the one morning, and 99 degrees the next day.  36 hour temperature changes of 40-50 degrees are fairly frequent in Minnesota, but this one was something else.

The soil itself has a lot of thermal mass and a relatively stable temperature.  Not to say it couldn't happen, but it wouldn't be the first place I'd look for disruptions caused by this kind of weather.

Depending on the jet stream's preferred configuration in any given season, there can be up to two months of leeway either way as to when the warm temperatures arrive and depart from the mid-latitudes such as Minnesota.  Some things are faster to respond to the temperatures than others.  Insects usually arrive with the temperatures, whether early or late, but if the Spring arrives early, the plants will wait as they know a late-season frost could come.  So what I'm trying to say is, the timings of various things relative to each other fluctuates a little bit year to year anyway.  I think there is some play in how things interact, as they are used to the minor variations.  Certainly, as things get wilder and wilder as time goes on, we could (and probably will) see serious disruptions to these systems.  But so far, I haven't see any here in Minnesota.  Any year could be the year.  Fingers crossed it's not this one.

Some pretty bad 'whiplash' going on in OK:

Vast Oklahoma Tornado Kills at Least 51

Shared Humanity:
Drought conditions are improving across the US.


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