Species exhibiting signs of change in Maine

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February 18, 2014, 10:24 pm
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(NECN: Marnie MacLean) - In a winter like this one with plenty of snow and cold, some may ask the question "What global warming?"

But scientists at the Climate Change Institute at the University in Maine in Orono say weather is different from climate and all of their evidence points to a warming planet.
George Jacobson is the state climatologist for Maine. He says humans have put 500 billion tons of carbon into the atmosphere and  that has to have an impact. According to Jacobson, "We are deviating from the natural trends that we would expect given the normal forces that create the earth's climate."

Ocean temperatures are rising. In the very warm summer of 2012, herring were scarce, which lead to starving puffins.

Maine shrimp are disappearing, and the entire season was cancelled this year. Lobsters are now at their southern limit, warmer water could push them further north. Inland, most Maine rivers are now too warm for salmon. Biologists in New Hampshire are finding dead moose covered with thousands of ticks that normally don't survive in the winter.

It's a little hard to think about a warming planet when we are in the midst of what seems like a rough winter. There's been plenty of cold and snow. That is weather, not climate.

Climate is weather over a long period of time and if you look back to even the 1930s in Maine, Casco Bay would freeze over and you could walk from Portland to Peak's Island.

The polar ice caps are melting and some scientists say that will impact our climate in New England. Winters overall should be warmer, ice out on the lakes earlier, and ski season perhaps a few weeks shorter.

The flip side is a longer growing season for gardeners, new species of fish showing up in the gulf of Maine and maybe a stronger wood supply.

It's figuring out how to adapt to these changes that presents the challenge.

One of the major challenges facing Maine's clamming industry right now is an invasion of green crabs. It's believed the warmer ocean water has helped their population explode and they are devouring clams and destroying marsh grass that keeps the shore from eroding.

Several studies are underway to figure out how big the problem is and come up with solutions to stop the invasion and save the clams and shoreline.

"It isn't all good, it isn't all bad, it's change. It's why we need to be thinking collectively so we can be preparing for trends that are coming and not pretend nothing is happening," Jacobson says.

Tags: maine, Marnie MacLean, climate change, Climate Change Institute, University of Maine in Orono, George Jacobson
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