« BACK  |  PRINT

RS

FRONT PAGE CONTRIBUTOR

Squirrels, Cities, and Climate

It’s the little things that illustrate the big problems with the common evidence that the Earth is heating up rapidly. Take this picture I took yesterday afternoon, as I hiked on out to Wal-Mart to check on after-Halloween cheap candy*:

Squirrel

I always get a kick out of seeing these little guys running around. You see, when I first set foot in Moreno Valley almost a quarter century ago**, I didn’t see this kind of wildlife running around. We’re at the edge of the desert, and as the town was first being developed, the only things I saw were the big old tumbleweeds rolling down the street on every windy day. Brown, dry, and prickly, they weren’t very friendly to little guys like in that picture above.

But now, years later, the town’s different. All the dry, empty spaces full of tumbleweeds are gone, replaced with buildings with lots of grass, trees, and bright green landscaping. The plants are different, the animals underfoot are different, and even the birds are different. Long ago the only birds I’d ever see are big, ugly blackbirds. Now there’s a variety around, and I hear all different kinds of bird songs in the mornings instead of just the honking of those blackbirds.

This is all anecdotal, and proves little, but it illustrates a greater point: it is not in dispute at all that human development changes the local climate. When people move into a desert area, the area gets wetter, greener, and friendlier to life that can move in afterward. Likewise, as a town builds into a bigger, older, more populous city, all of that greenery starts getting replaced with heat-absorbing concrete and asphalt, raising temperatures in the vicinity.

That last part is called the Heat Island effect. It’s real, it’s known, and it’s why the traditional temperature records going back 100 or more years are virtually useless for tracking the greater climate of the world. The only valid records we have for temperatures, therefore, are the satellite records that avoid such local effects. Those only go back 30 years or so.

And that is so little time on a geological scale. Too little to confirm any theory as the truth, inconvenient or otherwise.

* Wal-Mart is too efficient and had none left, sadly.

** Yes, I feel old writing that.

Get Alerts