Thursday, May 30, 2013

2013 Wildflowers Affected by Drought and Climate Change

Monte Largo Trail  (5/24/13)
I hiked the trails in the Monte Largo and Sandia Mountains this past week, looking for wildflowers.  We had very little precipitation last winter and only drops of rain this spring.  The parched landscape here in New Mexico shows it. With 98% of New Mexico in severe drought, we now have the distinction of being #1 of 50 states with the worst drought conditions.  Albuquerque (our largest city with half of the state's population living there) has had only .91" of rain since October 1, 2012!

Monte Largo Trail (5/24/13)

Monte Largo Trail (5/24/13)

There are very few wildflowers.  Here are the few I did see:

Canada Violet Viola canadensis
(10K South Trail, 5/27/13)

Dakota Vervain Glandularia bipinnadifida (10K south Trail, 5/27/13)

Mountain Parsley Pseudocymopterus montanus
(10K South Trail, 5/27/13)

Creeping Mahonia/Oregon Grape Berberis repens
(10K South Trail, 5/27/13)

Fanleaf Buttercup/Crowfoot Ranaculus inamoenus
(10K South Trail, Sandias, 5/12/13)

Lanceleaf Bluebells Mertensia lanceolata
(10K South Trail, Sandias, 5/27/13)

Tuber Starwort Pseudostellaria  jamesiana, protected in a moister tree trunk
(Cienega SpringTrail, Sandias, 5/27/13)

Calypso Orchid/Fairy Slipper Calypso bulbosa
(10K South Trail, Sandias, 5/27/13)

Pine and fir trees are dying back, many already completely red amid the green of the Aspens and healthier evergreen trees.
Pinon Pine
The Bark Beetle will surely follow to devastate more of our Pinon and Ponderosa Pine. The Cibola National Forest and Friends of the Sandia Mountains have cancelled our Summer Wildflower Walks.  The Cibola National Forest will be under full closure by June 10th. The animals (bears, deer, bobcat, etc) will be coming down to our neighborhoods and into Albuquerque seeking water and food.  I saw no water in Cienega Spring in the Sandias.  I saw the bark completely chewed off several pinon pine trees on the Monte Largo trail and animal scat almost completely composed of bark or juniper berries.  We are in the fourth year of severe drought here in New Mexico.  Today's Albuquerque Journal headline read: Colorado Basin shortages possible by 2016 - N.M.'s water supply could be affected soon after.  Daily we hear about range animals including cattle and horses who are severely malnourished or dead from lack of food and water.

Rapid climate change is occurring in New Mexico and globally and it will have catastrophic effects on us. There are many people who deny that global warming is happening and/or deny that human activities are contributing to the rise in average earth temperatures.  To ignore the science and facts that are available for us to make fundamental policy decisions is perilous to our children and future generations.  Here are some facts that each citizen needs to know:

Carbon is a very common element on our planet.  It exists in our atmosphere as gas molecules called carbon dioxide (CO2).  Carbon dioxide in the air absorbs light, creating a warming effect that affects the climate of the earth. Without CO2 in the atmosphere, life could not exist on this planet as we would not have warm enough temperatures to survive. The amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has varied, rising and falling with geological events (e.g. volcanic eruptions, etc) resulting in climatic changes over the billions of years of our planet's existence.  As the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has fluctuated over million year cycles, species have flourished and/or become extinct. The period most favorable for human beings to live on this earth has been relatively recent (there is evidence of human habitation for the past 195,000 years). During this period,  average carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has remained fairly constant, averaging 275 ppm...until about 200 years ago. The average amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere began to rise and scientists are concerned that the rise can be correlated to the increase in our burning of fossil fuels as human activities moved from agrarian-based to industrial-based economies.   The upper limit amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere to maintain a balance (global temperatures, climate, ocean pH, vegetation, rainfall, etc.) for our species to live on this planet is 350 ppm.  The conclusion that activities of human beings are adding carbon dioxide to the atmosphere and causing a global warming effect is from the data collected by scientists which has seen an exponential increase in carbon dioxide since the Industrial Revolution and our widespread use of carbon-based fuels.

In May, 2012 monitoring stations in the Artic measured a key milestone that the carbon dioxide level in the atmosphere has surpassed 400 ppm. 
"The concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere of Barrow, Alaska, reached 400 parts per million (ppm) this spring, according to NOAA measurements, the first time a monthly average measurement for the greenhouse gas attained the 400 ppm mark in a remote location. Carbon dioxide (CO2), emitted by fossil fuel combustion and other human activities, is the most significant greenhouse gas contributing to climate change.
“The northern sites in our monitoring network tell us what is coming soon to the globe as a whole,” said Pieter Tans, an atmospheric scientist with NOAA’s Earth System Research Laboratory (ESRL) in Boulder, Colo. “We will likely see global average CO2 concentrations reach 400 ppm about 2016.”
The atmosphere above the Artic Circle has been Earth's "canary in the coal mine" and now the concentration of CO2 has increased in more temperate climates. This month (May 9, 2013), a NOAA monitoring station in Hawaii measured that the average mean carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere exceeded 400 ppm.  This is a very significant event affecting Earth's average mean temperatures.   If we do not see a reverse in this trend, our species will become extinct if the earth's average temperatures rise 5-6 degrees Fahrenheit and remain there.  Earth's average temperatures currently are the highest in 4,000 years and 1.4 degrees higher since 1880:

 "Average temperatures have climbed 1.4 degrees Fahrenheit (0.8 degree Celsius) around the world since 1880" according to NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies and "the rate of warming is increasing. The 20th century's last two decades were the hottest in 400 years and possibly the warmest for several millennia, according to a number of climate studies. And the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports that 11 of the past 12 years are among the dozen warmest since 1850." 


According to NOAA OAR News (5/31/12):
"Atmospheric CO2 levels are currently higher than they have been at any time during the last 800,000 years. Watch a NOAA Earth System Research Laboratory animation of carbon dioxide levels for the past 800,000 years on YouTube at"