Tags: climate change

Winter Storm Warning and it's Almost May

Moon: Waxing crescent at 25 %

Current conditions Wed., April 29, 7:17 am. Light snow, freezing fog and 28 F. Winds from NW about 9+ MPH. Humidity 88%, windchill 15-19 F.

We have about 8-10 inches of new snow at the house, with more snow forecast through tomorrow. Then it is supposed to warm up again.

Currently, there is a Winter Storm Warning

455 AM MDT WED APR 29 2009
455 AM MDT WED APR 29 2009

This gives me a chance to catch up on some book reviews. One of the books I am reviewing right now is this one: Seeking the Spirit of the Book of Change: 8 Days to Mastering a Shamanic Yijing (I Ching) Prediction System, by Master Zhongxian Wu. It is structured around an 8-day program of guided imagery, Chinese taoist arts and practices (such as Pinming Lundao, "savor tea and discuss the Dao", and calligraphy) and an introduction to Taiji Qigong. Thus one learns an integrated foundation for Yijing (I Ching) through an 8-day experience that corresponds to movement through the Bagua hexagram and its 8 trigrams, the Three Powers (Heaven/Spirit(Shen) + Human/Breath(Qi) + Earth/Essence(Jing)). I did the first day yesterday, and look forward to this minicourse, as yesterday was quite enjoyable and enlightening. The Art of Tea does prepare one better to Pin (savor) the Dao.

I haven't read much Taoism/Daoism, but am intrigued to learn more about its approach to nature spirituality. I am much more interested in those world religions that focus on taking our proper place in Nature, such as animism, Native American traditions, Shinto, Taoism, shamanism, etc. than those that primarily focus on the human dimension, scripture and salvation, and seeing nature as a backdrop or adjunct/way-station, such as Christianity, Buddhism, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism...something to escape.

I will now push myself away from the computer and prepare for my second day of Savoring the Dao.

Late Spring Snow

We had a cold snow front come through today, and it is supposed to continue through tomorrow. Beautiful. Sure, we are a bit winter-weary, but the Land knows what it needs, and the snowpack during midsummer will be better for it.

Some folks use such cold spells as an opportunity for scoffing at the idea of global warming. Even though the glaciers here in Glacier National Park continue to shrink at an alarming rate. They don't seem to get that it is about the instability and warming of global patterns (they don't want to get it), and that regions and certain years will vary within the larger trends.

I get the sense Mother Earth is trying to move weather systems around creatively and desperately to keep things together as best She can....sort of like a worried Mother moving things around in the family budget during hard times in order to keep a roof over their head and food on the table. That's what these odd weather events really mean, including freak storms, terrible flooding, hurricanes... In the scientific view, it is a matter of energy being transferred around the globe through storm systems and wind and ocean currents. In my view, these storms and odd events represent a worried Mom sitting at the kitchen table, late at night, ticking the keys on an old-fashioned adding machine. She has to cut a little here and there, move this bit here, take a few dollars from her pin money, to make sure the mortgage is paid for another month.

So we need to ask ourselves, what can we do to help Mom?

The wind was cold, and the snowflakes came down furiously, sticking to the vegetation, but leaving the paving bare.

Coming Challenges and One' s Place

By the pricking of my thumbs, something Wicked this way comes.

Things are going to be changing even more. You ain't seen nothing yet. I had strong feelings about what was going to happen. I left Hawai'i to go home to Montana, for many reasons. I felt things were going to get to a point where I would never be able to get home again and see those I loved. In a way, I came home to die.

In her post today, Sharon Astyk covers some very important things about such decisions. And you need to read the entire post here.

But there is one part of her post that has great bearing on bioregional animism, and on how most people feel very strongly that certain places are "home" while other places are not. A word to the wise...if where you are is not "home," go "home" as soon as you can. Sharon says:

If you are native to another place. By native, I mean that many of us have a strong sense of place, and a strong sense of belonging to a place. My husband once went on a job interview at UIL Champagne-Urbana. He recalls looking across the land and seeing the horizon and thinking “oh, there’s the ocean.” But of course, there was no ocean there - his misperception lasted only a second, but revealed something about his ability to live in that place - he comes from people who live on hilly land around water, and know the flat horizon as the space of the sea. It is possible that he could have adapted to the flat open land of the midwest and learned to love it - but it is also possible that one’s sense of place should be respected if possible. I know people who have never fully adapted to their place, in the sense of being truly native to it - desert born people who could never breathe comfortably in the humid air of the southeast, warm climate people who found the cold of northern winters unbearable, city folk who find the country abnormally empty and silent, water folk who can’t imagine life away from a boat.

Not everyone is tied to a place - some people can live anywhere, others in a wide range of places. Some people can take their sense of place to wherever they go, and find a new home. But some people can’t. And it is simply the case that your body, and parts of your soul are shaped by your experience - a college friend of mine once spoke of people who grew up by the sea has sharing “water thinking” and noted that she who lived in Hawaii and I who lived in Coastal Massachusetts had that in common in our way of viewing the world. More mundanely, people who grow up in hot climates develop more sweat glands, and a better ability to cool themselves than people who grow up in cold ones - our physiology is shaped by our place.

And our native knowledge of our place is valuable - in fact, it may be the most powerful tool we have. Now some of us will have to leave our native places, to journey again as people so often have. But if we can stay where we are, knowing our flora and fauna, knowing what grows where and how things smell when the seasons change and how to heal or feed or tend with what is native here is absolutely valuable - as is the ability to adapt that knowledge as our places change. So if there is a place where you feel at home, and no other constraints bind you, perhaps you will want to go there, and be there, and help other people be there.

Local Conditions the Last Week

My Nature and Society class told me a few things that have been happening in the Helena area this last week or two. The skunks are out and about, since mid-February. They used to come out only in April. I have also noticed the magpies are paired up and nesting. Again, a behavior that didn't used to happen for another month or two. Temperatures for the day vary wildly, from near 0 with snow to about 40 or more; right now it is sunny and 41. There's very little snow on the ground in town, just some patches of old snow and ice in shady places underneath bushes or in the north shadows of homes.

I started a painting today in my painting class to honor snow. It is set at timberline in the mountains around us. I remember being up there many times, where the trees touch the mountaintop and the mountains scrape the sky, sitting among snow-covered rocks. I haven't decided if it is finished. I didn't intend it to be, but it seems like it is done. It feels the way I want it to feel, so I might just leave it the way it is. Sure, it is easy to be disappointed in yet another snowfall in February...but we need the water. I wish we had more snow, through March or April even. We need the water. The fires are going to be bad this year I fear.

Mass migrations and war: Dire climate scenario

By CHARLES J. HANLEY, AP Special Correspondent – 36 mins ago

CAPE TOWN, South Africa – If we don't deal with climate change decisively, "what we're talking about then is extended world war," the eminent economist said.
His audience Saturday, small and elite, had been stranded here by bad weather and were talking climate. They couldn't do much about the one, but the other was squarely in their hands. And so, Lord Nicholas Stern was telling them, was the potential for mass migrations setting off mass conflict.

"Somehow we have to explain to people just how worrying that is," the British economic thinker said.

Stern, author of a major British government report detailing the cost of climate change, was one of a select group of two dozen — environment ministers, climate negotiators and experts from 16 nations — scheduled to fly to Antarctica to learn firsthand how global warming might melt its ice into the sea, raising ocean levels worldwide.

Their midnight flight was scrubbed on Friday and Saturday because of high winds on the southernmost continent, 3,000 miles from here. While waiting at their Cape Town hotel for the gusts to ease down south, chief sponsor Erik Solheim, Norway's environment minister, improvised with group exchanges over coffee and wine about the future of the planet.
"International diplomacy is all about personal relations," Solheim said. "The more people know each other, the less likely there will be misunderstandings."

Understandings will be vital in this "year of climate," as the world's nations and their negotiators count down toward a U.N. climate conference in Copenhagen in December, target date for concluding a grand new deal to replace the Kyoto Protocol — the 1997 agreement, expiring in 2012, to reduce carbon dioxide and other global-warming emissions by industrial nations.

Solheim drew together key players for the planned brief visit to Norway's Troll Research Station in East Antarctica.

Trying on polar outfits for size on Friday were China's chief climate negotiator Xie Zhenhua, veteran U.S. climate envoy Dan Reifsnyder, and environment ministers Hilary Benn of Britain and Carlos Minc Baumfeld of Brazil.

Later, at dinner, the heavyweights heard from smaller or poorer nations about the trials they face as warming disrupts climate, turns some regions drier, threatens food production in poor African nations.

Jose Endundo, environment minister of Congo, said he recently visited huge Lake Victoria in nearby Uganda, at 80,000 square kilometers (31,000 square miles) a vital source for the Nile River, and learned the lake level had dropped 3 meters (10 feet) in the past six years — a loss blamed in part on warmer temperatures and diminishing rains.
In the face of such threats, "the rich countries have to give us a helping hand," the African minister said.

But it was Stern, former chief World Bank economist, who on Saturday laid out a case to his stranded companions in sobering PowerPoint detail.
If the world's nations act responsibly, Stern said, they will achieve "zero-carbon" electricity production and zero-carbon road transport by 2050 — by replacing coal power plants with wind, solar or other energy sources that emit no carbon dioxide, and fossil fuel-burning vehicles with cars running on electric or other "clean" energy.

Then warming could be contained to a 2-degree-Celsius (3.4-degree-Fahrenheit) rise this century, he said.

But if negotiators falter, if emissions reductions are not made soon and deep, the severe climate shifts and sea-level rises projected by scientists would be "disastrous."
It would "transform where people can live," Stern said. "People would move on a massive scale. Hundreds of millions, probably billions of people would have to move if you talk about 4-, 5-, 6-degree increases" — 7 to 10 degrees Fahrenheit. And that would mean extended global conflict, "because there's no way the world can handle that kind of population move in the time period in which it would take place."

Melting ice, rising seas, dwindling lakes and war — the stranded ministers had a lot to consider. But many worried, too, that the current global economic crisis will keep governments from transforming carbon-dependent economies just now. For them, Stern offered a vision of working today on energy-efficient economies that would be more "sustainable" in the future.

"The unemployed builders of Europe should be insulating all the houses of Europe," he said.
After he spoke, Norwegian organizers announced that the forecast looked good for Stern and the rest to fly south on Sunday to further ponder the future while meeting with scientists in the forbidding vastness of Antarctica.

Global Warming: More than half of North American bird species spending winter farther north

Northern exposure

By DINA CAPPIELLO - Associated Press - 02/10/2009

...An Audubon Society study to be released today shows that the Snow goose is spending the winter more that 200 miles farther north than it used to in 1966.

WASHINGTON — When it comes to global warming, the canary in the coal mine isn’t a canary at all. It’s a purple finch.

As the temperature across the U.S. has gotten warmer, the purple finch has been spending its winters more than 400 miles farther north than it used to.

And it’s not alone.

An Audubon Society study to be released Tuesday found that more than half of 305 bird species in North America, a hodgepodge that includes robins, gulls, chickadees and owls, are spending the winter about 35 miles farther north than they did 40 years ago.

The purple finch was the biggest northward mover. Its wintering grounds are now more along the latitude of Milwaukee, Wis., instead of Springfield, Mo.

Bird ranges can expand and shift for many reasons, among them urban sprawl, deforestation and the supplemental diet provided by backyard feeders. But researchers say the only explanation for why so many birds over such a broad area are wintering in more northern locales is global warming.
Over the 40 years covered by the study, the average January temperature in the United States climbed by about 5 degrees Fahrenheit. That warming was most pronounced in northern states, which have already recorded an influx of more southern species and could see some northern species retreat into Canada as ranges shift.

‘‘This is as close as science at this scale gets to proof,’’ said Greg Butcher, the lead scientist on the study and the director of bird conservation at the Audubon Society. ‘‘It is not what each of these individual birds did. It is the wide diversity of birds that suggests it has something to do with temperature, rather than ecology.’’

The study provides compelling evidence for what many birders across the country have long recognized — that many birds are responding to climate change by shifting farther north.

Previous studies of breeding birds in Great Britain and the eastern U.S. have detected similar trends. But the Audubon study covers a broader area and includes many more species.

The study of migration habits from 1966 through 2005 found about one-fourth of the species have moved farther south. But the number moving northward — 177 species — is twice that.

The study ‘‘shows a very, very large fraction of the wintering birds are shifting’’ northward, said Terry Root, a biologist at Stanford University. ‘‘We don’t know for a fact that it is warming. But when one keeps finding the same thing over and over ... we know it is not just a figment of our imagination.’’

The research is based on data collected during the Audubon Society’s Christmas Bird Count in early winter. At that time of year, temperature is the primary driver for where birds go and whether they live or die. To survive the cold, birds need to eat enough during the day to have the energy needed to shiver throughout the night.

Milder winters mean the birds don’t need to expend as much energy shivering, and can get by eating less food in the day.

General biology aside, the research can’t explain why particular species are moving. That’s because changes in temperature affect different birds in different ways.

Some birds will expand their range farther north. For example, the Carolina wren — the state bird of South Carolina — has turned into a Yankee, based on Audubon’s calculations. It is now commonly seen in the winter well into New England, as well as its namesake state of South Carolina.

‘‘Twenty years ago, I remember people driving hours to see the one Carolina wren in the state,’’ said Jeff Wells, an ornithologist based in southern Maine. ‘‘Now, every year I get two or three just in my area,’’ he said. ‘‘Obviously, things have changed.’’

Other species, such as the purple finch and boreal chickadee, spend their summers in the forests of Canada and fly south into the U.S. for the winter. Climate change could be playing a role in why they are not flying as far south as they used to, and are no longer as common as they were in states like Maine, Vermont and Wisconsin.

For other species, global warming may not be a major factor in the movements measured by Audubon at all. The wild turkey was second only to the purple finch in miles moved north — about 400. But it’s likely due to efforts by hunters and state wildlife managers to boost its population.

In other cases, the range shifts are prompting calls to cull some bird populations.

The sandhill crane, a large gray bird that migrates to the southern U.S. for the winter, has a range that expanded about 40 miles north in the last 40 years. This small movement has likely contributed to the bird’s population explosion in Tennessee. The sandhill population has grown to a point that state wildlife officials are considering allowing the bird to be hunted.

‘‘You are seeing it all across the state,’’ said Richard Connors, president of the Tennessee Ornithological Society. ‘‘As it increases, there is going to be pressure to hunt it. The bird watchers of Tennessee don’t want that.’’

More on this story at The Birdwatcher's Guide to Global Warming

The Montana Report on Global Warming and Songbirds lists many upcoming changes in the ranges and habits of our Montana species:

</i>The following list of possible changes to Montana’s avifauna was prepared by comparing the maps of projected summer bird ranges with the maps and information found in P.D. Skaar’s Montana Bird Distribution, Fifth Edition (Montana Bird Distribution Committee).

Species whose future climatic range may exclude Montana in summer: Olive-sided Flycatcher, Alder Flycatcher, Least Flycatcher, Bank Swallow, Boreal Chickadee, Winter Wren, Sedge Wren, Marsh Wren, Gray Catbird, Sage Thrasher, Sprague’s Pipit, Tennessee Warbler, American Redstart, Ovenbird, Northern Waterthrush, Wilson’s Warbler, Indigo Bunting, Green-tailed Towhee, Clay-colored Sparrow, Sage Sparrow, Fox Sparrow, Lincoln’s Sparrow, White-crowned Sparrow, McCown’s Longspur, Bobolink, Baltimore Oriole, Cassin’s Finch, Red Crossbill, Pine Siskin and Evening Grosbeak.

Species whose climatic summer ranges in Montana might contract: Willow Flycatcher, Hammond’s Flycatcher, Dusky Flycatcher, Tree Swallow, Black-capped Chickadee, Mountain Chickadee, Red-breasted Nuthatch, White-breasted Nuthatch, House Wren, Cassin’s Vireo, Warbling Vireo, Red-eyed Vireo, Orange-crowned Warbler, Nashville Warbler, Yellow Warbler, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Townsend’s Warbler, MacGillivray’s Warbler, Common Yellowthroat, Chipping Sparrow, Brewer’s Sparrow, Vesper Sparrow, Savannah Sparrow, Song Sparrow, Dark-eyed Junco, Chestnut-collared Longspur, Yellow-headed Blackbird, Brewer’s Blackbird, Common Grackle and American Goldfinch.

Species whose climatic summer ranges in Montana might undergo little change: Western Kingbird, Eastern Kingbird, Horned Lark, Northern Rough-winged Swallow, Cliff Swallow, Barn Swallow, Rock Wren, Western Tanager, Lazuli Bunting, Spotted Towhee, Lark Bunting, Grasshopper Sparrow, Red-winged Blackbird, Western Meadowlark, Brown-headed Cowbird, Bullock’s Oriole and House Sparrow.

Species whose climatic summer ranges in Montana might expand: Western Wood-Pewee, Say’s Phoebe, Violet-green Swallow, Chestnut-backed Chickadee, Northern Mockingbird, Brown Thrasher, Loggerhead Shrike, Black-headed Grosbeak, Blue Grosbeak, Dickcissel, Lark Sparrow and Orchard Oriole.

Species whose future climatic summer ranges might include Montana: Vermilion Flycatcher, Ash-throated Flycatcher, Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, Chihuahuan Raven, Cactus Wren, Bewick’s Wren, Curve-billed Thrasher, Bell’s Vireo, Painted Bunting, Cassin’s Sparrow and Great-tailed Grackle.

In summary, a high probability exists that global warming could cause changes in the climatic summer ranges of some of Montana’s birds. These changes could occur (and probably are occurring) relatively quickly and may have widespread ecological effects

In summary, a high probability exists that global warming could cause changes in the climatic summer ranges of some of Montana’s birds. These changes could occur (and probably are occurring) relatively quickly and may have widespread ecological effects and possible economic effects. While some birds that are lost to Montana may be found for the first time in another state, key vegetation and other habitat needs may not always be able to change fast enough or may be affected in other ways that will undermine the birds’ long-term survival.

Global warming is of particular concern when viewed in concert with other already well established population stresses (e.g., habitat conversion, pollution, invasive species). It is the combination of these stresses that will likely prove to be the greatest challenge to wildlife conservation in the 21st century.

Data on Montana Climate Change is In

From the Helena Independent Record today:

Data on climate change is in, UM professor says

By EVE BYRON - Independent Record - 02/04/09

Steve Running, a Nobel Peace Prize recipient and University of Montana professor, isn’t a big fan of what’s termed “clean coal,” which is touted as being environmentally friendly by Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer.

While it’s technically possible to capture the carbon dioxide emitted by coal-fired plants and sequester the gas underground, the cost and energy involved to do so is “so overwhelming it doesn’t end up as being logical,” Running said on Tuesday. He came to the Queen City this week to lecture on the effects of climate change to Montana.

Running knows that not everyone believes the Earth’s climate is warming, and people point to blizzards on the East Coast and record cold temperatures as proof. But as a scientist, he’s studied the data and firmly believes that humans are significantly contributing to global warming.

“I think there are some well-funded professional deniers who are following the tobacco and cancer lobbies’ model, in a broad sense,” Running said. “They continue to say that in the broad sense, all the data isn’t in. But in reality it is in and no climate scientist comes to any different conclusion. The world is warming up.”

Climate scientists spent 40 years developing models and theorizing whether shorter, warmer winters were due to different earth orbits, sun spots or even a wobbling axis, Running said.

“But no model can recreate the acceleration of global temperatures without including greenhouse gases,” such as carbon dioxide, Running said. “We’re using our atmosphere as a free garbage can.”

Capturing those greenhouse gases and injecting them underground just moves the problem around, he added. Montana’s Legislature is looking at creating rules on carbon sequestration, and during Schweitzer’s State of the State address last week, the governor said sequestration is vital for coal development in Montana.

“I think we’ll end up ultimately with a better solution,” Running said.

But whether the world does that before it reaches the tipping point is the big question.

“We won’t know that we’ve hit the tipping point until we look backward,” Running said.

He does note that it took 100 million years for plants to decompose underground into fossil fuels like gas and coal, but we’re digging it up in only 100 years — an acceleration speed of about 1 million.

“That simple statement says that can’t work for very long,” Running said. “We haven’t moved very far in coming up with solutions in the past 10 years, but I’m hopeful that will change soon. It has to.”

The easiest first step, he added, is to embrace a variety of energy-efficient opportunities, like electric cars or simply walking or riding bikes to work.

“In Europe, everything they do reduces their energy consumption,” Running said. “Wouldn’t it be great to be able to ride a train around town?”

Montanans are getting a front-row seat to the impacts of a warmer world, with shorter winters, hotter summers and a beetle epidemic that’s killing all of the lodgepole pines in the forests. Running theorized that in the future, the lodgepoles could be replaced by cactus and sagebrush, and Montana could start to look like Utah.

“Not that there’s anything bad about Utah,” he said, laughing.


Only the Earth and Sky Last Forever...But I am Wondering About Even Those

My brother and I went fishing on the Missouri River on a cold Thanksgiving morning this week. The morning was magic, with streamers of canyon fog blown off the water like a hot cup of coffee, whistling duck wings, chuckling magpies, and time spent with family seen too seldom.

Getting older, almost half a century now, I am amazed at the changes I see on the land and in the climate. There are more and more houses further into the forest. Expensive houses, not the old cabins and trailers of my youth. Where there were nothing but local folks in battered pickups, now there are people who look like they came from Seattle, with "hi-tech outdoors clothes" driving suburban SUVs shooting snotty looks at us oldtimers in our old 4x4s (that is one thing too-- we drove 4x4s, not SUVs).

The fishing has changed greatly too. Whirling disease hit Montana's trout in the 1990s. It came in when folks from other states became enchanted by the movie "A River Runs Through It", which romanticized the flyfishing of old Montana. Unfortunately, they brought with them waders infected by "whirling disease" from other regions, which decimated Montana's trout. They also got real snotty about buying thousands of dollars of high tech fishing equipment and such for catch-and-release, turning up their trendy noses at us locals who used spinning reels, worms and grasshoppers to catch fish to eat. The fishing pressure is immense now. In the summer on the Missouri, the boats and rafts are at best 100 yards apart; when I was in my 20s, there might have been one other boat or so when we went (we never went on high volume days like holidays).

I remember growing up, we felt sorry for Colorado, which grew wildly in the 70s, due in no small part to the romanticization by John Denver's songs and the new adventure lifestyles brought by the popularization of sports like high-tech hiking, hang-gliding, etc. Then in the 80s and 90s, Montana got discovered bigtime by the celebrity crowds, with the famous Ted Turner ranch deal, and it seemed like dozens of celebs and CEOs just had to get a Montana ranch, complete with log megamansions, a few Hereford or Angus for atmosphere, and a canvas tipi or two. Everyone knows this sort of thing spells the end of an era, because arrival of the trendsetters means higher property values and higher taxes, subdivision of ranches, more population coming in to service the elites and follow the fads and their dreams, and the sellout of the local regular folks by local realtors and fat cats dreaming of Hummers and the American Dream. First Whitefish and Kalispell, then Bozeman fell to the new boom. Then early around 2002 or so, I read a booster article in an airline magazine promoting Helena. I knew the axe had fallen on my boring little hometown. Sure enough, when I returned to my home in 2006, Helena had been "discovered" by mobs of outsiders and prices have gone through the roof. But there ain't any place to run to, if even Helena has been "discovered"...watch this video of my favorite Eagles song, and see what I mean.

There are lots of people here in Montana who don't believe that global warming exists. That it's some part of the "liberal media conspiracy." Up until December of 2007, things were unseasonably warm. According to my friends from high school, we hadn't had a "real winter" for ten years or so, not like when I was growing up when there was snow on the ground by Halloween, and lasting snow from November until April or so. Then, beginning in January 2008, we had snow and cold, just like the old days, that lasted until March. From March through September, things were pretty much like when I was growing up, from the late 60s until the 1980s. Then we had a weird snowstorm in October (see the post with photos, below) with snow that stayed on the ground for over a week. Then things got warm again, to the 70s and 80s, slowly declining into the 50s and 60s F during the day, up until Thanksgiving this week.

This is the story that ran in the paper today:

Which season’s greeting?
By MARTIN J. KIDSTON - Independent Record - 11/29/08

Eliza Wiley IR photo editor - Dry valley grasses give light to white-capped Mount Baldy and Edith northeast of Townsend. The month of October was 1 degree above average in the Helena area and November has been even warmer.

Greening grass, budding lilacs — and even a fall encore by the tick — have some Montanans scratching their heads and asking what’s going on with the weather.

An unseasonably warm fall has Mother Nature behaving in ways more like April than late November.

Virginia Knerr, extension agent for Broadwater country, has seen Kentucky Bluegrass turning green in area yards. Daytime temperatures in the 40s and 50s have caused the buds to swell on some lilacs.

“If they get too far into it and we get a cold frost, it could kill the lilacs because they’re not really dormant,” said Knerr. “There are some oddities going on out there that will have an impact on what grows back and what doesn’t grow next spring.”

Most of Montana falls in temperature “zone” three, requiring winter-hardy plants. Quaking aspen are considered zone-two trees, making them more tolerant of cold temperatures. The maple, in contrast, is a zone-four tree, meaning it’s less tolerant.

Knerr said many non-native trees suited for planting in zones four and five could be tricked by November’s warm weather and caught by off guard when subzero temperatures strike.

“If you start getting warmer days, those less tolerant trees will start running their sap,” Knerr said. “When you get the moisture up in the bark and we suddenly get cold temperatures, the bark freezes and splits. It can definitely kill the tree.”

The month of October was 1 degree above average in Helena. So far, November has been even warmer. Last week alone, average temperatures have been 6 to 8 degrees above normal.

The warm weather has allowed ticks to remain active. Nymphs and adults winter-over in weeds, duff, brush and fallen leaves, living between four to seven years, barring a deep freeze.

“The warm weather is probably doing the same thing with our ticks,” Knerr said. “We’ll have to see what happens next May.”

Clinton Kujala, management chief for the wildlife division of Fish, Wildlife and Parks, said the warm weather has given migratory game birds more options for feeding and finding open water.

“Like the elk, it keeps a lot of country open for those field foragers,” Kujala said. “It keeps agricultural fields up north open and available further into the fall.”

Kujala said migratory birds may only fly as far south as necessary. The mild weather may have an effect on when they leave and how far they fly.

“The further you go into the fall, the chances of weather setting in hard and staying hard arguably increase,” he said. “But the critters are probably tuned in to day lengths and things just as we are. They’re physiologically able to tune into that and do what they’ve always done.”

See, I notice when people talk about "global warming," lots of folks from the cooler climes often think it's BS, or they think "hey, that's alright, it'll be nicer during winters, not so cold." They don't realize that a warming climate will increase forest fires, draw down water levels because of the lack of a snowpack in high elevations, throw off hunting and fishing, etc. As an archaeologist, the Altithermal climate during the Archaic Period hints at things to come in Montana: zone shifts by elevation, with forests retreating upslope, increasing fires, and desertification of the Plains areas. Plus, even worse, as things get worse elsewhere, we will be facing more migration from other regions of people looking for a better place to live. The real fight to come will be water.

The term "global warming" immediately sets some people's teeth on edge in rural areas, such as here in Montana, even with all the mounting evidence, as a "liberal" issue, or as actually something positive if it ever really happens.

I know better. I lived in Alaska in 2001-2002. It was then that I went to the Inupiat village of Shishmaref in 2002 and saw the village being washed away by increasing wave action from the Bering Sea. I've been to Mendenhall Glacier near Juneau where the historic photos and marks on the ground of the shrinking glacier hits you in the gut. Even here in Montana, a visit to Glacier National Park is shocking. I guess they are going to have to come up with a new name sometime in the next 50 years or so, when all the glaciers are gone from Glacier National Park-- that is, if anyone cares, as there will be much more to worry about.

The old Indian saying goes, "Only the Earth and Sky Last Forever." But I am starting to wonder about even those.