Climate change is making land in the extreme north greener and more like habitats found to the south, according to a report released on Sunday by NASA. A large international team worked with NASA to review 30 years of satellite data that recorded the vegetation and temperatures of far north landscapes from 45 degrees north all the way to the Arctic Ocean. It turned out that today's temperatures and habitats look like the temperatures and habitats of locations 4 to 6 degrees farther south in 1982.
The study, published in the journal Nature Climate Change, suggested that plants and animals adapted to the extreme chill of the Arctic region are now experiencing a disruption in their environment. As the snow cover vanishes for a longer portion of the year, the summer growing season expands — and that allegedly pleasant climate change might be bad news for species that might have to now compete with rivals that formerly stayed to the south.
NASA said that the newly green region covers one-third of the northern landscape -- roughly 3.5 million square miles or the same size as the 48 contiguous states and the District of Columbia. One of the study's co-authors, NASA's Compton Tucker, explained that, "It's like Winnipeg, Manitoba, moving to Minneapolis-Saint Paul in only 30 years."
Although some people in the snowy north may joke around and say that they welcome global warming if only it will put an end to relentless chilly winters, the changes can create problems for species adapted only to survive in the coldest of climates. I reported a few days ago on new evidence that a large genus of live-bearing lizards from chilly southern and high Andean South America could be wiped out. The problems of the polar bear, a species which has seen its Arctic habitat melting right out from under it, has also been well publicized.
NASA's newest satellite study is simply one more piece of evidence that climate change is very real.
[polar bear photo courtesy Ansgar Walk and Wikipedia Commons]