An Inconvenient Truth — Biological Productivity of the Tundra Has Increased Since 1981, Perhaps Due to Warming.

Is that a scary thing?

Guest post by Indur M. Goklany

In its October 14, 2010 issue, Nature magazine (p. 755) reports on a paper by JMG Hudson and G HR Henry, Increased plant biomass in a High Arctic heath community from 1981 to 2008, Ecology 90:2657–2663 (2009). (PDF ) It notes that, based on data collected from study plots over a 13-year period and survey data covering 27 years on the tundra of Ellesmere Island in Nunavut, Canada, an area where both temperatures and the length of the growing season has increased in recent decades:

“The biomass of mosses has increased by 74% and that of evergreen shrubs by 60%. The total biomass of the system has increased significantly, and vegetation has grown taller. But because there was plenty of open ground at the site into which plants could expand, these changes did not result in decreases in any group. The research indicates that climate change has already begun to increase plant productivity in the high Arctic.”

The abstract of the paper states:

“The Canadian High Arctic has been warming for several decades. Over this period, tundra plant communities have been influenced by regional climate change, as well as other disturbances… [W]e measured biomass and composition changes in a heath community over 13 years using a point-intercept method in permanent plots (1995–2007) and over 27 years using a biomass harvest comparison (1981–2008). Results from both methods indicate that the community became more productive over time, suggesting that this ecosystem is currently in transition. Bryophyte and evergreen shrub abundances increased, while deciduous shrub, forb, graminoid, and lichen cover did not change. Species diversity also remained unchanged. Because of the greater evergreen shrub cover, canopy height increased. From 1995 to 2007, mean annual temperature and growing season length increased at the site. Maximum thaw depth increased, while soil water content did not change. We attribute the increased productivity of this community to regional warming over the past 30–50 years. This study provides the first plot-based evidence for the recent pan-Arctic increase in tundra productivity detected by satellite-based remote-sensing and repeat-photography studies. These types of ground-level observations are critical tools for detecting and projecting long-term community-level responses to warming.”

In its penultimate paragraph, the paper admits that:

“The mechanisms for the observed increased productivity are unclear. However, it is likely that warming directly increased plant growth and reproduction and indirectly increased resource supply (Shaver et al. 2001). Increased temperatures also lengthened the growing season, increased soil temperature, deepened the active layer, and consequently may have influenced nutrient uptake in this plant community.”

Notably, the paper does not directly address the role, if any, that nitrogen and carbon fertilization may have played in the increased productivity. [One might argue this is implicit in the phrase in the above that refers to “indirectly increased resource supply.” If so, it’s a pretty sloppy piece of writing.] In any case, based on its findings, it expresses some skepticism about claims that many heath species may be endangered:

“Although many heath species are predicted to become endangered by their inferior competitive abilities (Callaghan et al. 2005), our results indicate that heath plant communities may persist in a warmer future in the High Arctic.”

The paper also points out that its findings are consistent with satellite-based analyses that show increasing productivity in the Arctic area. See the earlier WUWT post, Another Al Gore Reality Check: “Rising tree mortality”?, that shows that it is not only the Arctic region that has greened up, but also the Sahel, Australia, the Amazonia, and the world as a whole.

So, going back to the heading of this piece, is increased biological productivity something to be scared about?

The answer is “yes” only if:

(a) Any change is bad, which apparently many in the environmental community believe reflexively, AND

(b) Nature (including humanity) cannot adapt to any warming that might result.

But an increase in productivity isn’t just any change. It actually makes more resources available to life forms that rely on them for sustenance. That is, it could lead to more abundant, if not more diverse, species. Moreover, we know that nature has encountered as much if not greater warming in the Arctic regions before, and is none the worse for it. See, for example, CO2 Science’s Medieval Warming Project Interactive Map and Time Domain Plot.

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66 thoughts on “An Inconvenient Truth — Biological Productivity of the Tundra Has Increased Since 1981, Perhaps Due to Warming.

  1. You have to know that the warmistas will utter a loud “A-HAH!” and ignore any possible benefits accruing to these findings.

  2. Which has exerted a stronger influence, warming or increased CO2, on the observed biomass buildup?

    I bet the latter.

  3. nearly a thousand MSM articles are spinning the “success” of the UN biodiversity meeting in Nagoya, such as steve connor in the UK Independent, whose headline is “A giant leap for the natural world”. however,

    BBC’s richard black is unusually sober:

    29 Oct: BBC: Richard Black: Biodiversity talks end with call for ‘urgent’ action
    Nations have two years to draw up plans for funding the plan…
    The meeting settled on targets of protecting 17% of the world’s land surface, and 10% of the oceans, by 2020.
    These are regarded as too small by many conservation scientists, who point out that about 13% of the land is already protected – while the existing target for oceans is already 10%…
    Developed nations agreed to establish mechanisms for raising finance to help them – which could amount to hundreds of billions of dollars per year by 2020…
    The sums might appear astronomical – particularly when you recall that governments are already committed to raising $100bn (£125bn) per year for climate change by 2020 – but French Ecology Minister Chantal Jouanno said it was not impossible..
    Conservation groups warned that the agreement as it stands does not guarantee the erosion of species and ecosystems will be stopped…

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-11655925

    while Guardian’s jonathan watts is not only pleasantly shocked, but sees faith in the UN “restored” :

    29 Oct: Guardian: Jonathan Watts: Goodwill and compromise: Nagoya biodiversity deal restores faith in UN
    After the failure of the Copenhagen climate talks, a successful agreement to protect biodiversity has provided a timely morale booster
    Some key goals have been set, including a plan to expand nature reserves to 17% of the world’s land and 10% of the planet’s waters. For a scarred veteran of the Copenhagen or Tianjin climate talks, the extent of the progress, goodwill and readiness to compromise during these past few days has been pleasantly shocking…

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2010/oct/29/nagoya-biodiversity-summit-deal

  4. There’s no question that if you make the tundra warmer it will support more biomass.

    One problem is the drop in biodiversity as arctic species range’s disappear.

    But the overall drop in global productivity will not occur in the tundra.

  5. Funny how that period covers only the warming phase of the AMO. I wonder what they will run in 30 years?

  6. And I wonder how many of my (Canadian) tax dollars went into studying something that should be “facepalm” obvious? Gee plants grow when it’s warm who’d of thunk?

  7. Wombat, do you realize that the only way you can have static biodiversity.
    would be for the climate to be static?

    and even then, it wouldn’t work

    Climate is the main driver of evolution, if it didn’t change, and something go extinct,
    we probably wouldn’t even be here.

    and the biodiversity of arctic species would be something else entirely.

    Change is good, get used to it.

  8. This brings to mind a topic that I’ve not seen raised for awhile, namely the theory that the recession of arctic ice would release massive amounts of CO2, setting up feedbacks that would spin the planet into ever-increased warming.

    I believe this is what our good friend Henry Waxman had in mind when he made this immortal statement a year and a half ago:

    “We’re seeing the reality of a lot of the North Pole starting to evaporate, and we could get to a tipping point. Because if it evaporates to a certain point – they have lanes now where ships can go that couldn’t ever sail through before. And if it gets to a point where it evaporates too much, there’s a lot of tundra that’s being held down by that ice cap..”

    http://wattsupwiththat.com/2009/04/26/quote-of-the-week-5-waxmans-stunningly-stupid-statement/

    MY QUESTION: if arctic warming results in increased plant growth, wouldn’t this tend toward the absorption of CO2 rather than its runaway increase? I’d appreciate some perspective on this. Thanks.

    Ken in North Dakota

  9. I remember that the melting tundra issue caused them to re-think the methane issue; think off-setting.

    Warmists like to ignore the increased greening of the planet that kicks in to absorb much of the extra amount of ‘toxic’ co2. This is one of the feedbacks that has allowed us to exist today and in the past despite significant climate changes over the past 100,000 years.

  10. “Although many heath species are predicted to become endangered by their inferior competitive abilities (Callaghan et al. 2005), our results indicate that heath plant communities may persist in a warmer future in the High Arctic.”
    ====================
    Talk about persistance, they survived the last ice age.
    If I’m not mistaken, plant DNA is 1000 (or something) times longer than human DNA. In other words, plants can handle anything natural variation throws at them.

  11. The tropics likewise had a biomass increase of 25%, with the added benefit of a large positive impact on fauna.

  12. pat says:
    October 29, 2010 at 5:12 pm

    “nearly a thousand MSM articles are spinning the “success” of the UN biodiversity meeting in Nagoya, such………..”

    Pat, they are gently nudging away from AGW and onto the next scare. Reach for your wallet or purse. :o)

  13. Now wait a minute!

    How is the non existent global warming (It’s UHI effect, isn’t it?) affecting plant growth.
    You cannot have it both ways!!!

    \harry

  14. “Palynological and megafossil evidence is presented from sites on the Tuktoyaktuk Peninsula, indicating northward advance of the Arctic tree line during the period 8500-5500 B.P……………These results suggest that during the Hypsithermal Interval the Arctic Front (July position) was further north, over the Beaufort Sea, a displacement from its present position of about 350 km……..The Tuktoyaktuk Peninsula, presently occupied by tundra, and dominated by the Arctic airstream in July, was apparently under forest, with warm, moist Pacific air during the Hypsithermal Interval.”

    Late-quaternary vegetation and climate near the arctic tree line of northwestern North America
    Quaternary Research
    Volume 1, Issue 3, September 1971, Pages 331-342

    http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/0033-5894(71)90069-X

  15. Wombat says October 29, 2010 at 5:14 pm
    “One problem is the drop in biodiversity as arctic species range’s disappear.”

    This is absurd. Boreal and Arctic species have humongous ranges and huge populations vs tropical species. The primary characteristics of Boreal habitats is LOW species diversity and very high species dominance, aside from the pitiful primary productivity. Almost all of the species have distributions in both North America and Eurasia. Rare species are the product of species endgame (typically overspecialization) or rarely over-exploitation by humans. Considering that 100% of this habitat was covered by over a mile thick ice sheet until recently, this is one of the most perturbated habitats on earth and humans had nothing whatever to do with it.

  16. OT you can snip but I think WUWT should be looking/posting more about meteorogical clmate data rather than biology, politics etc re the real issue.. but hey you’ve got the greatest hits etc so you know vat you are doing LOL.

  17. Wombat says:
    October 29, 2010 at 5:14 pm

    There’s no question that if you make the tundra warmer it will support more biomass.

    One problem is the drop in biodiversity as arctic species range’s disappear.

    Why is the drop in biodiversity a problem?

    And how do we know arctic species ranges will disappear?

    Maybe all those plants and animals we refer to as arctic, will rejoice in a warming of their range. Perhaps what they are doing now, particularly since the start of the Little Ice Age, is a real pain and they would love to get back to the good old days of the Medieval Warming Period?

    I know the Vikings would have been thrilled with a little warming back then.

  18. Wombat says:
    October 29, 2010 at 5:14 pm

    There’s no question that if you make the tundra warmer it will support more biomass.

    *************

    Please tell that to all the alarmists who claim that this warming will produce a runaway greenhouse disaster from the massive release of CO2 and CH4 instead of increased sequestration.

  19. Soooo….

    Green is good …. unless, as in this case, Green is bad ???!!!

    These are twisted times we live in.

  20. Harry Lu says:
    October 29, 2010 at 6:11 pm
    Now wait a minute!

    How is the non existent global warming (It’s UHI effect, isn’t it?) affecting plant growth.
    You cannot have it both ways!!!

    Yes you can Harry. Specific areas can become warmer from time to time without it leading to catastrophic global warming. Perhaps the Arctic area has been warmer recently while other areas have been colder.

    In any event, a large number of us here know the world is warming (and has been for centuries). It is the role of man, and specifically CO2 which we dispute.

    (Other options are possible to explain the increased growth. People studying my garden over a short time from winter to summer could attribute increased plant mass to temperature. In fact the dominating characteristic is how long since I last pruned and weeded.)

  21. R. de Haan says:
    October 29, 2010 at 5:40 pm

    …. that link could be a thread all unto itself so I won’t say too much more… but it does not surprise me just from my own observations over the years. That being said, I think it is crucial for everyone to recognize that there are different ways people are hardwired & that there may be no way to change are person’s thoughts on a subject – this is extremely relevant to the AGW debate, as this has become a highly political subject instead of a scientific subject, which should be free from emotion. It also illustrates that AGW is a political subject to anyone who would say otherwise – as far as I can tell, the overwhelming majority of AGW supporters are also politically left. Name one other field in “science” where the majority so strongly fall into one political camp. Left wing biologists? Right wing chemists? Nope, only climate “science” falls into this category. Why? Because it is politics 1st, science 2nd.

  22. “Although many heath species are predicted to become endangered by their inferior competitive abilities (Callaghan et al. 2005), our results indicate that heath plant communities may persist in a warmer future in the High Arctic.”

    You’re supposed to skew the data and hide the decline (or persistence) before publishing the results. Pffftt… rookies. Silly rabbit, tricks are for Mann.

  23. This was discussed in part three years ago, see

    http://wattsupwiththat.com/2007/11/06/alaska-warming-from-arctic-tundra-shrub-invasion-and-soot-deposition/

    From the abstract:

    “Invasive shrubs and soot pollution both have the potential to alter the surface energy balance and timing of snow melt in the Arctic. Shrubs reduce the amount of snow lost to sublimation on the tundra during the winter leading to a deeper end-of-winter snowpack. The shrubs also enhance the absorption of energy by the snowpack during the melt season by converting incoming solar radiation to longwave radiation and sensible heat. Soot deposition lowers the albedo of the snow, allowing it to more effectively absorb incoming solar radiation and thus melt faster.”

  24. The main cause is probably (increased) particulate pollution providing trace nutrients to the plants.

    Plants on permafrost have shallow roots in heavily leached soils. Nutrient availability is likely the limiting factor in plant growth.

  25. Know what I hear from this…
    nature thanking us for co2 and the sun for warmth.
    And SH’s going to have bumpers this year I hear.

  26. The simple truth is we are always getting better at finding what is there. No dramatic ups or downs, just nature being nature and us discovering it better.

  27. I had a discussion with a scientist (non biologist) and when I said the idea of species means squat to nature, she almost flipped(tried to hide it but I saw it). The entire concept of species is a man made concept and the more we learn the broader/uncertain/ arbitrary that concept becomes.

    Can’t wait for the UN crowd to start deciding economic policies based on species numbers (sarcasm off)

  28. Philip Bradley says:
    October 29, 2010 at 8:27 pm
    “Plants on permafrost have shallow roots in heavily leached soils. Nutrient availability is likely the limiting factor in plant growth.”

    Ya think ? LOL – yeah, right after the fact that they are frozen solid for ~ 75% of (7 plus months) a year [forget the total absence of light for months, since they can't grow due to the temps anyway].

  29. The photo (Plate 1) makes me question the validity of this research. In Plate 1 there appear to be a number of low structures scattered about the tundra. Are these the open-top chambers? Do I presume correctly that the researchers are measuring the biomass within these structures? A quick skim of the PDF didn’t answer these questions.

    If the answer is yes then I’m afraid this research is probably worthless. It looks like a case of the observer altering the observed. The structures will block the wind thus changing the growing conditions.

    I’ve spent a lot of time wandering around in Colorado’s alpine tundra and I can tell you from personal observation that the wind is a huge factor in the biomass even at a small scale. For example, the biomass in the lee of a boulder will be much greater than an exposed spot a foot away.

    I need a big research grant so I can spend more time wandering around….umm….I mean researching the alpine tundra.

  30. I wonder who will pay for the biodiversity agenda? It seems that most nations are broke or about to become so (dictionary on this – see USA). Thus, any free biological productivity must be a good thing. If this can be accomplished by a bit more GHG and a little soot it seems almost like a free lunch. Someone has already mentioned the extra warmth in the tundra ought to promote evolution and increased diversity. What’s not to like? [or WNTL?]

    I’ll restate the broke part in case anyone has missed this. The USA is deep in debt. No one knows how to stop this. Print more money. Inflation. Zero interest rates. Workers want more pay. Retiree’s income goes down.
    Health costs go up. Print more money. Send money to UN to support a biodiversity agenda. Is anyone in charge?

  31. Research. It’s a wonderful thing.

    Ellesmere island, Wikipedia.

    “…Schei and later Nathorst described the Paleocene-Eocene (ca. 55 Ma) fossil forest in the Stenkul Fiord sediments. The Stenkul Fiord site represents a series of deltaic swamp and floodplain forests. The trees stood for at least 400 years. Individual stumps and stems of >1 m (>3 ft) diameter were abundant. Abundance of Metasequoia and possibly Glyptostrobus trees.

    In 2006, University of Chicago paleontologist Neil H. Shubin reported the discovery of the fossil of a Paleozoic (ca. 375 Ma) fish, named Tiktaalik roseae, in the former stream beds of Ellesmere Island. The fossil exhibits many characteristics of fish, but also indicates a transitional creature that may be a predecessor of amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals, including humans…”

    And from another source:

    “…One of the most remote places on Earth, Ellesmere Island has experienced little human activity (see ARCTIC EXPLORATION). However, archaeological evidence shows that the fjords of Hazen Plateau were occupied some 4000 years ago. Excavations of THULE-culture winter houses on BACHE PENINSULA (mid-island), dating from 1250-1350 AD, have uncovered numerous Norse artifacts…”

    Sounds like nature’s giving back the land it took before.

  32. Greenhouse operators enrich the CO2 content in their greenhouses to get much faster plant growth and healthier plants.

    +CO2 = more green, -CO2 = less green

    Funny how that works out. More CO2, less famine.

  33. Ah ha, henrythethird, Tiktaalik, a sarcopterygian (lobe-finned) fish, precursor to the amphibious land assault?! Great you bring it up. I take my moniker from its descendent cousins, Crossopterygii, species of which inhabited the Carboniferous (Mississippian/Pennsylvanian) Period swamps and deltas around here and which I’ve been lucky enough to find bits (and more of) when splitting shale. Well, two examples in twenty years isn’t bad!!

  34. The article makes it seem like the increased warmth causes the increased CO2. Aiiiiieeee

    Didn’t the arctic have palm trees in the past? Surely that wasn’t so long ago geologically. Shite happens, times change just like weather and climate.

  35. where both temperatures and the length of the growing season has increased in recent decades:
    —————
    So today we are running with the “it’s warming but it’s good for us” line.

    Tomorrow we will be back to the “there is no evidence for warming” line.

    Today we still can’t wrap our heads around the importance of rates of change to adaption or that adaptation may mean extinction for species as habitat zones undergo geographical shifts.

  36. So let me get this straight. The greenies have given up trying to “control” the climate because their scam failed. Having gone away and performed a hard re-think they’ve decided their next scam is to “control” evolution and it’s going to cost us twice as much?

    Ahahahahahahahahahahaha!

  37. LazyTeenager says:
    October 29, 2010 at 11:49 pm

    So today we are running with the “it’s warming but it’s good for us” line.
    Tomorrow we will be back to the “there is no evidence for warming” line.

    Today we still can’t wrap our heads around the importance of rates of change to adaption or that adaptation may mean extinction for species as habitat zones undergo geographical shifts.

    Few here are saying that there is no climate change – the climate has been changing almost continuously as far back as you care to look. The question is what is driving these changes. Go look at Jimbo’s posting further up in this thread which shows that the climate in the high Arctic appears to have been significantly warmer than today in a period a few thousand years ago, after the end of the last ice age. Yet CO2 was lower than today.

    As for the question of rates of change and their impact on species ability to adapt, again ask questions of the past – the rates of change at the end of the last ice age were very rapid indeed – in particular around the Younger Dryas event, with a plunge into colder conditions and an almost as rapid warming. We should recall that current habitats were created by climate change of this kind – and recent studies also show that current habitats are nowhere near as stable as previously considered, but have been pieced together by precisely these kinds of climate change.

  38. What blows me away is the size of the effect when contrasted to the minimal exposure that this has in the MSM. The world is greening – significantly – measurably – massively. Deserts are in global retreat. Farm production us up world wide. This is a huge effect – a measurable effect of increased CO_2 levels. You’d think that the media might want to report it.

  39. So today we are running with the “it’s warming but it’s good for us” line.

    Tomorrow we will be back to the “there is no evidence for CO2 warming” line.

    You left a word out.

    Tomorrow I will still maintain the world is warming. Slowly. But that CO2 has a trivial part in that.

    I will also be maintaining that warming is good for us, in the sense that cooling would be a disaster and keeping the same temperature an impossibility.

    It is a straw man you are burning here. The issue is whether there is catastrophic warming or not. Far too many people still assume that any evidence of warming is evidence of CO2 warming, which is not a logical conclusion.

  40. dwright says:
    October 29, 2010 at 5:30 pm
    And I wonder how many of my (Canadian) tax dollars went into studying something that should be “facepalm” obvious? Gee plants grow when it’s warm who’d of thunk?

    ++++++++++++

    One reason to study it is to know if the alarmist ‘methane eruption from melting tundra warming tipping will bring disaster upon us all’ argument has any foundation. So for $0.00 I read a paper on carbon emerging from melting permafrost and calculated with a single finger that the growth of biomass needed to completely absorb all carbon from stored rotting biomass is 5 kg per square metre. This study shows (almost because numbers are not quite given) that this figure will easily be attained.

    As we already know, the treeline was 80-100 km further north in the MWP. 5 kg/m^2 is nothing for a growing forest. The area in question is vast, absolutely huge. The CO2 absorbing potential is enormous, but it seems it is not heating very much at all.

    Incidentally in Inuvik 40 ft trees grow on permafrost. You can reach into the roots and feel the ice. Amazing. 200 feet higher, east of town, there are no large trees for a few thousand clicks beceause it is ju-ust a little too cold. They are there, tiny, alive, waiting for warmth.

  41. “Although many heath species are predicted to become endangered by their inferior competitive abilities (Callaghan et al. 2005), our results indicate that heath plant communities may persist in a warmer future in the High Arctic.”

    Plants of the scrub-lands have adapted to survive at the very margins of viable conditions for growth. They have a wide geographic range and it is very unlikely they will ever become endangered. Should Arctic conditions improve over the coming years they will simply move more polewards as more useful species regain there previously abandoned territory.

    Nothing in nature is static, just like climate it is always in state of dynamic continuous change as it strives to continue it’s gene-pool.

  42. As a biologist, I see nothing wrong or negative about increased plant production per se. Certainly, this would be a direct effect of warming and it is really unlikely that plant production in the arctic would be affected by CO2 levels.

    The problem is the melting of the permafrost and resulting production of methane and CO2 as bacteria mineralize the vast amounts of frozen organic matter (mainly peat) in the Siberian, Canadian, and Alaskan tundra. This is a major positive feedback, where warming leads to more CO2 which leads to more warming.

  43. henrythethird says:
    October 29, 2010 at 10:21 pm

    Henry do you have a link to

    And from another source:

    “…One of the most remote places on Earth, Ellesmere Island has experienced little human activity (see ARCTIC EXPLORATION). However, archaeological evidence shows that the fjords of Hazen Plateau were occupied some 4000 years ago. Excavations of THULE-culture winter houses on BACHE PENINSULA (mid-island), dating from 1250-1350 AD, have uncovered numerous Norse artifacts…”

    Thanks

    Sandy S

  44. From a letter I recently wrote my brother:

    “…One thing that has happened is that at some point it became politically incorrect to believe in the MWP (Medieval Warm Period). Therefore, simply because I love Viking lore, I constantly find myself with a case of foot-in-mouth disease, because I dare suggest it was warmer a thousand years ago than it is now. Furthermore, I suggest a return to those conditions is greatly to be desired, but unfortunately is unlikely to happen. You’d be surprised at the backlash I get.

    Because of my interest in the MWP, I’ve watched with great interest as attempts are made to again raise crops, and herd sheep and goats, in Greenland. Despite having imported hay and despite having tractors, which the Vikings lacked, I think modern Danes have a long way to go to approach the Viking’s success. Just consider this factoid, from the following interesting paper:

    http://www.collectionscanada.gc.ca/obj/s4/f2/dsk2/ftp04/mq22551.pdf

    “For the Vatnaverfi district of the Eastern Settlement it is estimated that
    100,000 sheep and goats may have been pastured at the height of the
    Norse period (Jacobsen 1987). The resources these animals required included
    about 700,000,000 kg of hay and between 36,500,000 to 73,000,000 litres of water
    annually or 1,917,808 kg of fodder and 100,000 to 200,000 litres of water daily.”

    (I should add that the Eastern Settlement was the more northern and smaller of the two major Greenland Settlements that we know about….)”

    My letter went on from there to discuss other lore involving Vikings. The more you study the subject the more obvious it is the MWP was a more benign situation, and the onset of the LIA a dramatic, disasterous change.

    One battle I have with my goats every winter is keeping the water unfrozen. (I’m too cheap to pay for wiring my stables and buying those expensive, electric heated-water-buckets.) Just imagine the Greenland Vikings trying to deal with watering 100,000. It had to be warmer.

    Warmer and more productive. Something to be yearned for.

  45. The 14C age of the methane and CO2 given off from thawed permafrost has always intrigued me. The Siberian data indicates that the carbon was fixed between 9000 and 5000 years ago.
    Pity this has not been done systematically.

  46. For info on the ancient habitations on Ellesmere Island see:

    “Ellesmere Island: Eskimo and Viking finds in the High Arctic” by Peter Schledermann (of AINA) National Geographic mag. May 1981 pp. 574-601. You might be able to find other articles online by Schledermann as he made several archeological trips to the high Arctic. The NatGeo article is probably in your local public library.

    The Bache peninsula is near a natural polyna which melts out early in the summer due to shallow seafloor, tidal currents, and shape of the shoreline, making a good place for habitation. He determined Eskimo habitations and Viking artifacts such as medieval chain mail, knife blades, and woolen cloth found near them.

  47. u.k.(us) says:
    October 29, 2010 at 5:38 pm
    “Talk about persistance, they survived the last ice age.
    If I’m not mistaken, plant DNA is 1000 (or something) times longer than human DNA. In other words, plants can handle anything natural variation throws at them.”

    Warm-blooded animals can operate their biochemistry under constant conditions, while cold-blooded and plant life has to use different chemical pathways depending on the temperature. So we get along with far less enzymes for the same purpose. This could explain why plants need such large genomes. It’s not a contradiction to your conclusion – yes, they are prepared for temperature swings, they have to be.

  48. Here is another, perhaps analogous inconvenient truth.

    Between 1982 and at least 2007 i.e. a period of 25 years or more, the surface partial pressure of CO2 over the great Southern Ocean (SO) i.e. over the entire part of the SH below 40 S, actually lagged INCREASINGLY below the global average CO2 partial pressure. This was determined by me from assessing ‘offical’ NOAA data which employs many monitoring stations over the SO right down to the South Pole.

    In other words the rate of increase in atmospheric CO2 over the SO was becoming INCREASINGLY slower relatively to the global rate of increase, over that entire quarter century. It is likely that the ‘increased lagging’ trend in CO2 continues to the present day – certainly it was continuing last time I looked.

    IMO the only plausible reason why this has been (and probably still is) occurring is adaptation by the vast biomass of cyanobacteria (phytoplankton, algage) in the SO i.e. an increase in net phytoplanktonic primary production of the SO, in response to the rise in partail pressure of CO2. As far as I know, any temperature rise of the SO over the last 30-odd years has been almost negligible – certainly negligible in terms of phytoplanktonic growth rates.

    Now you won’t find this startling fact in the peer reviewed literature! I wrote about this phenomenon, and some other curious observatiuons about NH oceanic cyanobacteria, in April 2009 here:

    http://landshape.org/enm/oceanic-cayanobacteria-in-the-modern-global-cycle/

  49. I read the paper but it leaves me hanging. They measured (ocular estimate) the biomass in 1995, 2000, and 2007. Uncertainty aside, “evergreen shrub ABM [above ground biomass] increased by 60% and bryophyte ABM increased by 74%.”

    Yep. Plants have a propensity to grow. The biomass in my yard has increased since 1995. The biomass in the Willamette National Forest up the hill has increased 10-fold over the last 185 years. The stuff has a way of accumulating.

    Excuse me if my shock and awe at biomass increase is less than expected, but big whoop. There are no controls in this retrospective observational “experiment” with one rat [i.e. one experimental unit]. Nothing out of the usual was observed. Alleged “warming” cannot be considered a causal factor since no “effect” was established.

  50. I need to correct a mistake I always make, that I made yet again in my last comment. (TheCaleb says: October 30, 2010 at 5:42 am)

    Correction: Eastern Settlement was the bigger and more southern Viking site in Greenland, not the more northern and smaller site.

    Here’s an interesting list of Norse stuff found in Eskimo camps, dating back to the WMP. The stuff includes chain mail, and was found way up on Ellesmere Island.

    http://pubs.aina.ucalgary.ca/arctic/Arctic33-3-454.pdf

  51. henrythethird says:
    October 30, 2010 at 9:51 pm
    Thanks for that link I’ll share with a colleague next week and see what his reaction is!

    Sandy S

  52. From Wikipedia:

    “…The Medieval Warm Period (MWP) or Medieval Climate Optimum was a time of warm climate in the North Atlantic region, that may also have been related to other climate events around the world during that time, including in China, New Zealand, and other countries lasting from about AD 950–1250…”

    Seems strange that the range of the Norse artifacts found on Ellesmere Island (1250-1350 AD) show they survived for about 100 years or so after the end of the MWP.

  53. RE:henrythethird says:
    October 31, 2010 at 2:03 pm

    “Seems strange that the range of the Norse artifacts found on Ellesmere Island (1250-1350 AD) show they survived for about 100 years or so after the end of the MWP.”

    Just because Europe lost interest in Greenland, and stopped sending ships, does not mean that the Greenlanders lost interest in themselves. We have no Icelandic Sagas, nor tax-reports from Scandanavian kings nor thithe-reports from the Catholic church, that tell us what happened to the population, however we can learn a little by looking at graves, and the ruins of old Norse and Inuit houses.

    The farmers who stubbornly clung to their farms shrank, due to their poor diet, until the average man was less than five feet tall. Where the older bodies in graves rotted, the most recent bodies were preserved by the growing cold. It got so cold that even the Inuit abandoned their settlements in Eastern Greenland, but even those ruins hold Norse items.

    It is usual to dismiss the Greenlanders as a people who just died off, however this does not seem likely to me, due my knowledge of human nature. I think they moved south.

    Besides the Greenland farmers, the Greenland population held quite a collection of sea-faring men. Even the Icelandic Sagas mention a trading craft, a “knarr” larger than most, called a “Vinlandsknarr.” There is nothing dramatic about trading, so the Sagas make no big deal about it, however it happened. Perhaps the only sign of we have of these sea-faring men is what we see when we try to figure out the sex-ratio of the Greenland population. It seems there were likely five men for every three women.

    During the period 1350-1450 walrus ivory was replaced by elephant ivory in Europe, as trade with Africa increased. A fine cloth produced in Greenland was replaced by cloth from England, (and also the wool-producing sheep in Greenland may have died due to the cold.) So what was left to trade? The next big item was cod.

    When John Cabot sailed in 1498 his crew consisted of some who had sailed the route before. Apparently Europeans had been sailing to the Grand Banks for cod for some time. How long? Those fellows didn’t write.

    The cod-fishermen likely stopped in Newfoundland for water, and perhaps even to dry their fish. It would be interesting to locate the sites where they stopped, and sift the sand. It would not surprise me at all if the lowest levels contained Norse items.

    It also would not surprise me if there was no real break in the trans-Atlantic trade between 1350 and 1500. It may not have been written about, by the tax and tithe collectors, but it likely was talked about in taverns.

    Maybe it was talked about in the taverns of Italy. After all, both Christopher Columbus and John Cabot were Italian.

  54. The Sagas were indeed Icelandic.
    Other early writings about Greenland include “The King’s Mirror” known by its old Norse title “Konungs Skuggsja” from the first half of the 13th century which described dairying as one of the chief industries of Greenland. Another important document was the sailing directions carried by Henry Hudson from “A Treatise of Ivar Bardarson a Greenlander…” written about the middle of the 14th century. It gave sailing directions from Norway to Iceland to SW Greenland.

  55. I just found out an hour ago that naked mole rats have the greatest longevity of any rodent. Whereas most rodents have 2-4% CO2 in their burrows, (50 to 100 times atmosphere), naked mole rats have more, about 6%.

    The body’s main stimulus to breathe is buildup of CO2 in the blood. When it is too easy to release that CO2 (very low atmospheric concentration), you don’t breathe as much and don’t get enough oxygen. Anoxia is the primary cause of cancer (1935 Nobel Prize). So one would expect fewer cancers with more CO2. Naked mole rats get NO cancers and they do not seem to age at all.

    Maybe the ideal CO2 concentration is even higher than I thought.

    I have yet to see any health of terrestrial vertebrates in varied CO@ concentrations.

    Meantime–CO2 is not just good for plants–it is good for animals, and you as well.

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