I just finished an article in The Atlantic. The article is titled Jurassic Park is Real…for 400 year old Arctic Mosses. Yeah, it’s a stupid title ..but just go with it. It turns out that mosses that have been under glaciers for 400 years come back to life as the glacier melts. This discovery surprised the scientists doing the research. They did not expect the glaciers to melt so rapidly and they did not expect the plants to come back to life.
As I read the article I was fascinated by the way the conventional wisdom of the day was being changed by new information….science at work.
And then I got to thinking about climate change. These plants were on glaciers way up north in Arctic Canada, very near the Arctic Ocean.
Just 400 years ago they were growing plants, that surprised me. I would have guessed the glacier ice in that specific location to have been around for a longer span of time. These plants were knocked off by the end of the little ice age. Wow. I wonder what it was like up their during the height of the medieval warming period around a 1000 years ago?
This region appears to be changed by fairly small changes in temperature….and it may actually be trailing rather than a leading indicator of regional climate. The plants were destroyed near the end a cooling period and it took 250 years of warming to rediscover them. I suspect the whole Arctic ecosystem could be a trailing rather than a leading indicator.
World temperatures peaked in 1998. Since then there has been a very slight cooling as this UAH worldwide temperature chart demonstrates.
Ice melting in the Arctic has continued to melt ever more rapidly as 2012 was a record year with ice being the lowest in history; if you can call a data base that started in 1979 significant.
Small data base, lots of noted change, what does it all mean? Beats me. How can one really know. One thing is certain, the changes the plants saw 400 years ago were a part of natural climate variation.
Each summer our local paper includes several Arctic warming articles full of global warming gloom and doom. How can we be sure the change we are now seeing is man caused? I suspect widespread SWAG. I remain convinced that too many hawkish climate scientists underestimate the power of natural climate variation!