Friday, June 12, 2009

Global Warming a Threat to Northern Michigan?

When we think about the dangers of global warming, images of shrinking icecaps, starving polar bears (or penguins like this one photographed by Kris Busk), flooded coastlines and other far away perils most often come to mind. But could the next images from Al Gore's video presentation feature our local landmarks? A recent study indicates that our Northern Michigan lifestyle may be in danger.

According to an article in this month's online edition of the University of Michigan publication Michigan Today, climate change is driving Michigan mammals farther north.

Researchers at the University of Michigan, Michigan State University and Ohio's Miami University, in findings published in the June issue of the journal Global Change Biology, have concluded that some Michigan mammal species are rapidly expanding their ranges northward, apparently in response to climate change. In the process, these historically southern species are replacing their northern counterparts. The researchers analyzed distribution and abundance records of opossums and eight species of small forest rodents.

The Michigan Today article reports that the data shows:
Of the nine mammal species examined, four have established strongholds or increased in abundance, while five have declined. The increasing species—white-footed mice, southern flying squirrels, eastern chipmunks and common opossums—all are southern species, while the declining species—woodland deer mice, southern red-backed voles, northern flying squirrels, woodland jumping mice, and least chipmunks—are all northern species.

While many local Northern Michigan residents and disappointed visitors who have come to the area in the last few weeks expecting to put in some quality beach time and return home with tans scoff at any mention of global warming here in the Frozen North, researchers point to some evidence of a warming climate. (Stained glass sun by Michael Myers.) Michigan Today reports:
The researchers downloaded maximum and minimum daily temperatures from the National Climate Data Center for 16 weather stations in the Upper Peninsula, where changes in the small forest rodent community have been especially pronounced. They then calculated monthly averages for minimum and maximum daily temperatures for each year between 1970 and 2007 for each station and for the region as a whole. Across all 16 sites, average annual minimum daily temperatures increased significantly over the 37-year period.

I have been giving some thought to the dangers that these results may foretell for our way of life here in Northern Michigan, and in particular for our tourism and resort industry. Lets see. Southern rodents migrating to Northern Michigan. Is it possible . . .

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