What hibernating toads tell us about climate (nothing)

From MCGILL UNIVERSITY and the “30 years defines a climate trend and 24 years defines toad trend department” comes this dreck. I call bullshit.

24-year study of spring emergence of Fowler’s Toads creates model for predicting climate-change effects

What hibernating toads tell us about climate. CREDIT David Green, McGill University

A toad emerges from hibernation. CREDIT David Green, McGill University

The ability to predict when toads come out of hibernation in southern Canada could provide valuable insights into the future effects of climate change on a range of animals and plants.

McGill University professor David M. Green of the Redpath Museum and his students have been studying Fowler’s Toads on the shore of Lake Erie at Long Point, Ontario, for over 24 consecutive years. Green’s focus? To use weather records to predict the springtime emergence of toads from their annual eight-month hibernation — and, by doing so, determine if a warming climate is changing the toads’ behaviour.

Timing is everything

Green found that the toads’ timing can be predicted based on environmental conditions well before the bumpy-skinned amphibians actually wake up. ”

“The toads are buried up to a meter deep in the sand. What drives them to come up is when the sand below them becomes colder than the sand above,” explains Green. “Year after year, on average, this has been getting earlier and earlier.”

The model Green has developed could have broader applications, he says. . On the grander scale, if this approach applies to other animals and plants, too, we could generate some powerful information about what is to come as the climate warms.

Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jZVdN85ufJo

You never know, it might be useful

The long-running project stemmed, somewhat inadvertently, from Green’s PhD research into the interbreeding between Fowler’s and American Toads. When he became a McGill professor, Green continued to study the toads’ behaviour, “Because I needed to be at the scene for the start of the toads’ breeding season, I began to note when the toads came out of hibernation,” he says. “While I didn’t set out to study climate change 25 years ago, the data I collected turned out to be far more valuable and interesting then I could have imagined!”

During the nearly quarter-century that Green has been studying toads in the field at night, he’s encountered his share of hardships. Once, his car got stuck in a sand drift, forcing him to “walk six kilometres with leaky boots with only a failing headlamp to get home,'” he recalls. But the painstaking observations have made possible the model that now enables him to predict the toads’ springtime emergence.

Going forward

And the work continues. To test his predictions and make them more precise, Green now has probes in the dunes at Long Point that are recording temperatures underground every 30 minutes. “What the temperature does and what the toads do should match,” Green says. “We can also apply this information to investigate when other organisms living on, and in, the dunes wake up in spring.”


“Amphibian breeding phenology trends under climate change: predicting the past to forecast the future” David M. Green, Global Change Biology http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/journal/10.1111/(ISSN)1365-2486/earlyview


65 thoughts on “What hibernating toads tell us about climate (nothing)

  1. These people are so desperate that they will say and do anything. Don’t they have any shame?

  2. Finally a prediction – not a projection! Where is that prediction? Is it as usual a prediction for year 2100?

  3. I guess this guy is assuming the climate has already changed, since he thinks he is getting toad results related to climate change.
    Scientific Society’s claim CAGW is real, without any evidence of such, and all these scientists are working on the assumption it is real, and here. Based on nothing tangible.
    The CAGW promoters have one heck of a scam going here. Lots of interested players looking to personally benefit. Hard to derail. But derailed it will be.

  4. Impossible to comment on this without losing my temper. All too stupid for words.
    But grrr! I promised myself I would always give a reason for expressing an opinion, so let me try. Toad emergence time gives ONE data point per year per planet. Not even as good as one tree ring multiplied 200-odd times – at least that tree ring got a teensy bit diluted by other also-useless tree rings. This guy is just chasing some extra $$ for doing what he likes – which is apparently watching toads.

  5. “The toads are buried up to a meter deep in the sand.”
    Many individuals are buried very, very deep.
    At least the toads will get out of the sand at some point.

  6. Amazingly useful research that lets a person predict when toads & other organisms emerge from their winter hibernation. It can be used for all sorts of important stuff, like . That’s it, a big zero on the usefulness stakes.

  7. Mayflies would be better, then I would know the exact date to go trout fishing.

    • Hi Warren – see my reply below re NZ studying “whale’s breath” in the interest of climate change. I don’t know whether to laugh or cry.

      • Stamper, Bill,
        Both it is. Plus another resolve to belittle the green lunacy every chance.
        “Warmest June in modern times”
        Yes, but I the Medieval Warm Period they often had three or four warmer Junes. Each Year.
        “CO2 rising”
        Yes, and to the nearest tenth of one percent by volume – how much CO2 is there in the atmosphere today?
        [None – many nearly-innumerate warmists choke on that.]
        Hmmm. And how far back does the record go? CET – over 300 years, but many satellite observations – not so far back that I couldn’t vote!
        There are more.

  8. the toads are trying to tell us that climate science is long on research funding and short on research questions.
    in other words, climate science is running out of research questions.

  9. It is getting warmer. Toads are coming out earlier. So what? Looks like a wasted career to me.

    • Actually, they don’t (at least according to the presented data):
      ” …The date of DayE exhibited no significant trend (R² = 0.005, F1,22 = 0.116, P = 0.736, slope = 0.072) over the 24 years…”

  10. I say let’s do a comparison study. Let’s bury the researcher a meter deep in the sand and seen when (s)he come out … bet the toad wins.

  11. Actually, what these biologists are doing makes good sense.
    For example, when I was teaching chemistry lab, we had all the usual suspects. The classes consisted of Bio, Chem, Phys, and Geology (those were a lively bunch) students. Then we had Nursing and Med Tech, as well. Rounding out the class would always be some reptiles, unfortunately some snakes (those were bad), but usually lizards, and a variety of amphibians of various descriptions.
    I would always encourage my students by telling them to work hard, and things would work out when they found their proper (ecological) niche in the world. Most all of them became passably good at chemistry, and some of them must have found their correct (ecological) niche after all. So these biologists are merely seeking some of my old students and and inquiring about the climate. Judging be some of the examples of climatology we have seen here at WUWT recently, these toads should be at least as qualified as some of the other researchers in the field.
    So you see, these biologists have hit upon a good research method, and it all makes perfect sense.

  12. Interesting.
    From looking at the author’s on data on when 10% of the toads emerged from hibernation; it appears that the author has been licking far too many of those toads.
    His data and his graphs do not match his claim.
    ‘Toadus bogus’ looking for some of that climate money.

  13. True story.
    I live in Tucson AZ. Last year I was replacing my fence. I had to dig out the 25 year old concrete settings for the old fence posts. About 18 inches down in dry, packed hard soil, my shovel hit a toad… a Colorado River Toad. I was stunned how deep and in hard-packed soil that fella was. Well my shovel did him in.
    I wasn’t sad though. There are plenty of them around when the monsoon rains come and the dry washes are flowing. They are poisonous and secrete a toxin from a gland that can kill predators that try to take them in their mouths (like my dog).
    One toxic toad down. Many millions more to eliminate.

  14. There is at least ine interesting rid bit. The toads, in SOUTHERN Canada hibernate for 8 months.
    And that is below the 49N. Tells you why most Canadians don’t fret much about “Global Warming”.
    As for those of us that ski, six months of winter is fine. Others just have to deal with their seasonal affect disorder and hibernate with the toads.

  15. It’s all set in stone
    New study provides fresh insight into how Earth’s oceans became starved of oxygen in the wake of the event 252 million years ago, delaying the recovery of life by five million years.
    The Permian-Triassic Boundary extinction wiped out more than 90 per cent of marine life and around two thirds of animals living on land. During the recovery period, Earth’s oceans became starved of oxygen – conditions known as anoxia.

    • Given the amount of molten rock that came out of the earth at that time, not surprised. The hole chemistry of the atmosphere and oceans would have changed.

    • From the article: “Findings from the study are helping scientists to better understand how environmental change can have disastrous consequences for life on Earth.”
      More “change is bad” sensationalism. I like to learn about changes that had advantageous consequences too, but such are not so prevalent on the web.

    • “Down here in US of A we got ground hogs to tell us the year’s weather.”
      But they one-up’d us. Punxsutawney Phil gives indications of Spring weather, their toads portray climate. Who knew?

  16. What do you expect from a “professor” with the last name Green? I think he has little problem finding grant money. ( and laughing all the way to his bank).

      • Yeah, there is so little discrimination in the U.S. that the Loony Left has to make it up. There have been numerous incidents lately where some minority has claimed discrimination only to find out they were not telling the truth.
        You can’t be a Social Justice Warrior if there is no injustice, so I guess they have to make it up to feel relevant.
        And I’m not saying there isn’t discrimination in the U.S., there is, but it’s a lot less than is portrayed by the Lunatic Left and the Leftwing News Media.

  17. painstaking observations have made possible the model that now enables him to predict the toads’ springtime emergence.
    Good for McGill University professor David M. Green of the Redpath Museum, good for modeling society.

  18. ‘the data I collected turned out to be far more valuable and interesting then I could have imagined!”’
    Maybe you can get a TV show.

  19. From MCGILL UNIVERSITY and the “30 years defines a climate trend and 24 years defines toad trend department” comes this dreck. I call bullshit.

    Too bad.
    This study represents a long list of basic research on various fields that try to ride the climate. The research itself might be boring, but it is much better than the press release, which is awful.
    What I suspect is happening is that the research is basically done inside its boring technical limits. A resercher actually wakes up 5am and walks to the reseach site as every year the last 25 years, and writes up what happens, takes a count of toads visible, etc. This is good! The world needs people who want to count the toads. I would not have the nerve to wait for them to appear.
    But then, there is another issue, the researcher needs to make a point so that (s)he gets the money to continue the work. Might not know a lot about climate, but is able to connect the study to climate. So rides that option.
    Then comes the clerk at the University who is supposed to write a press release. Right. Knows nothing about the science, knows less about climate science, but knows frrcking well how to ride the climate change. Probably a member of the local WWF and votes for the Green, as every mate around the place where practical issues (like getting the heating on) are not a problem and money comes from my pocket via taxes. Voila, landmark paper on climate change released!

    • Your comment that we need such people is spot on. I find it a travesty that many folks here choose to attack the person! My specific research, in mathematics is highly unusable, got me a degree. When we grip about the specific research people do I find that wanting. But the argument that the author choose to put this in the context of climate change to get it published I think it the real issue. Our journals have made it easy to publish in climate change and hard outside of that. It’s his job, the research, but the opportunity to continue to publish is tough to resist. Only the author could answer those questions and well feeding my family means income, income at a university means published research. Besides, this research falls well within McGills group speak, recall: Lovejoy from from McGill.

    • It seems to me that a probe with a couple of thermometers on it to measure heat flow would be a lot more accurate than counting toads. It could be automated , too, so that the analyses could be done at a lot more reasonable times. Of course, the grant money would be a whole lot less.

  20. “Amphibian breeding phenology…”
    When I read that I thought it said ‘phrenology’ which is perhaps about where it should really be archived. Anthony was pretty close with “bullshit” but phrenology was a really special type of bullshit, possibly the template for climate science.

    • PS:-
      There could even have been a special branch of phrenology for studying bumps on the head caused by being beaten relentlessly with a hockey schtick.

  21. Not sure about the toad climate correlation at all. Moisture content, for example, would have a huge impact on below surface temperature changes, as would albedo and insolation values.
    But, this does raise an interesting point that I’ve long wondered about; measuring the temperature below the surface. It’s always been curious to me that climatologists, concerned about earth’s energy balance, choose to use such a shaky energy proxy as air temperature. Air has ridiculously small specific heat, moves around willy nilly, and is only secondarily energized.
    The prime mover is the earth; solid and liquid. By measuring earth’s temperature gradients (below the surface) you would get a far more reliable, desensitized energy rate measurement, wouldn’t you? You get averaging without man made adjustments and it automatically incorporates every surface variable that throws off air temp measurements.

    • WRT to toads, wake up time would depend primarily on the bury depth of the toad (as well as moisture content).
      So, if i cared to study this particular toad, my first query would be “how do they decide their bury depth?” The answer is probably associated with moisture content. If so, the wake time is then somewhat dependent on rainfall or water table at bedtime (this is likely the primary driver … the alarm clock is set when they go to sleep).
      WRT to using air temp for “earth temp” instead something more reliable … I would also like to know a little more. My guess is that there is not any historic comparison available, and limited data available shows no changes to anything.

  22. I like to know who is funding these kinds of studies. Here’s a quote, from the last line of the article.
    “This work was supported by NSERC Canada, the Canadian Wildlife Service, World Wildlife Fund Canada, the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry, Wildlife Preservation Canada, and the Canadian Wildlife Federation.”

  23. Did you look at the data? The slope suggests 30% of the toads come out 1.5 hours earlier each year. However the average date of their emergence is May 14 ± 13 days. The 95% confidence interval exceeds the range of the date data because it is so noisy.

  24. Having had several fish ponds over 16 years now I am all too familiar with infestations of Fowler’s Toads whose unappealing call made by the male sounds like an angry, sick sheep bleating and is extremely annoying especially since it can continue all night long…and when they first start has varied year by year, sometimes earlier, sometimes later with no trend.
    If only I could get American Toads to move in, their call is a pleasing trill that is a joy to hear!
    Much more useful data for any warming/cooling to me is if my Water Hyacinths (Eichhornia crassipes) survive the winters or not. The result? Over the last 16 winters, sometimes they have survived, sometimes not – mostly not, only about 6 years out of the 16 have they survived, and those six years are not clustered but spread pretty randomly over the 16 years. Common sense tells me there’s no warming taking place at least by that measure, in my little corner of the world.

  25. So, not content with treemometers, now we’ve got toadmometers.
    And there’s me thinking ‘the science is settled™’…
    You’ve really got to hand it to those climate “scientists”.

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