17 March, 2002
Friends of Phenology
Springtime in Fairbanks 2002, and the temperatures are milder than usual. According to the Canadian news magazine “EnviroZine”, the freeze dates of lakes in the northern hemisphere are occurring nearly six days later than they did one century ago, while the thaw dates (known as “ice off” dates) are occurring six days earlier! These changes correspond to a temperature rise of 1.2 degrees Celsius.
Phenology (no…not the bumpy-head science of “phrenology”) is the study of the timing of natural events. “Ice Phenology” is the study of the freeze and thaw dates of water bodies in cold climates. Long-term ice records provide evidence of environmental change and can assist scientists in climate analysis.
Canada has had a long history of encouraging its citizens to monitor ice cover on lakes, rivers, and ponds. The country’s “Ice Watch” Program http://www.cnf.ca/icewatch/ is trying to involve folks in determining how ice cover has changed, and what corresponding effects that might have. Some Canadians have been doing this voluntarily for twenty years! According to the Ice Watch Program, community data is often better than satellite data because it is recorded more frequently.
Although some northern cities have made a game out of phenology (read about the Nenana Ice Classic at http://www.adn.com/front/story/733369p-773969c.html and http://www.ptialaska.net/~tripod/ ) climate change is no joke. Many organisms (including humans) are likely to be impacted by shifts in the annual freeze and thaw dates. A shorter winter can affect water quality, seasonal breeding and migration patterns, outdoor recreation, and tourism. Dr. Jeffries and I would like to begin a Poker Flat Phenology Program (PFPP??). Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to submit you prediction for this year’s PFPP “Ice Off” date. When will the lake ice be gone? Naturally there will be PRIZES for the winner(s), whose name(s) will be announced at the end of the season!
Find out more: how does your energy consumption impact your environment? http://north.cbc.ca/north/archive/powertrip/
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