Birding Today: Global warming hits area hard

Grasshopper Sparrow

The sciences once worked together naturally on balancing earth so that everything worked properly making us live well through adaptation. Somehow, we got off track after the advent of the industrial revolution where we could live better with new inventions. We are now paying the price for using up many of those naturally occurring elements and fossil fuels, making global warming rear its ugly head.

The southern Great Plains has the wildest temperature extremes in this country as the standing joke states. However, since the 1980s, we have seen over a hundred droughts, heat waves, earthquakes, floods and hurricanes. We never have enough water unless the rain comes, and 2018-19 takes the record for that event. This anomaly was caused by resilient storm system ridges. It was so hot, the Green Heron colony disappeared from Boomer Lake in Payne County six weeks early, with extreme heat and humidity by 9 a.m. in 2018. One clutch died due to that heat raising their body temperatures and their loss of body water dried them out.

The summer of 2010 sticks out in my mind as the driest, as that is when Oklahoma became my resident state.

The facts are that summer droughts will become more frequent and stronger, and that hurts our agricultural economy between 5 and 20 percent of gross domestic product per county.

Heavy rainfall will also increase, hurricanes will be stronger and more intense due to human-induced supersizing climate extremes. Eventually, there will still not be enough water due to drought and heat loss.

The explanation for this is atmospheric rivers and is expected to intensify as climate change increases. Large amounts of water vapor are carried through the clouds and accounts for our increasing rainfall since last October through today. There will be more winter precipitation, but it will manifest as rainfall instead of snow. Less snow pack will be available on the mountains of Colorado, so the rain will just roll off terra firma when it comes, and not be there to fill spring reservoirs in time for agriculture to get underway.

Hot and dry conditions increase wildfires like California has been experiencing for decades. New Mexico’s wildfire season has increased from four to six months over a four-decade span. Since 1990, over $3B fire damage has been caused on the west coast alone. The area burned has doubled since the mid-1980s with the advent of climate change.

Coastlines are also affected by warming water and an approximate nine-inch sea level rise, and water acidity has climbed 25-40 percent, both since the mid-1800s.

Heat waves are increasing the numbers of coastal sick and starving birds and sea lions, and southern hemispheric tuna is moving north for relief.

Pre-existing vulnerabilities are only getting worse as time marches on and affects us all now. Plan well and wisely for alternative energy sources to help combat these problems and reduce greenhouse gases.

Keep your eyes on the ground and your head in the clouds. Happy birding!

Deb Hirt is a wild bird rehabilitator and professional photographer living in Stillwater.

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