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#Climate change has changed my (and your) backyard

December 27th, 2015 · 5 Comments

It is late December, Washington, DC, suburbs

Roses and Azaleas blooming in DC-area garden, late Dec 2015

Roses and Azaleas blooming in DC-area garden, late Dec 2015

and things are out-of-whack. Roses and azaleas blooming in the garden with cut flowers adorning the dining room table and enough lettuce coming up that we’re looking toward fresh salad from the garden for a New Year’s brunch.

Let me tell you: this is not normal.  Actually, correction: this was not normal and sadly is likely a sign of ‘the new normal’: weird weather, with new extremes of all types, amid a warming global ecosystem.

Washington is warm — record-setting warm.


Even the cherry blossoms are confused, looking like mid-April rather than December.

Lettuce growing in DC-area garden. late Dec 2015

Lettuce growing in DC-area garden. late Dec 2015

High temperature record, after record, along the U.S. east coast are getting shattered

this December as my lettuce emerges through winter cover plants.


And, while it gets warm during the day, it isn’t cooling at night.

This isn’t just DC.

“According to preliminary data from NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI), at least 2,693 record daily highs were tied or broken across the U.S. during the first 23 days of December. An additional 3,912 record-warm daily low temperatures have been set during the same time period,” the Weather Channel reported. “By comparison, just 147 daily record lows and 140 additional record cool highs were set in the same time frame.”

Let us be clear, for a moment, this is not isolated either temporally nor geographically. Here, for example, is Minnesota with the question “what is happening to winter?” In the UK, daffodils are blooming at Windsor Castle.

Dec 2015 temperature anomalies (note: baseline is 1980-2010: e.g, a climate changed baseline ...)

Dec 2015 temperature anomalies (note: baseline is 1980-2010: e.g, a climate changed baseline …)

Temperatures are going up globally — writ large — year to year. Decade-to-decade, ever more warm temperature records are getting broken than cold ones (for daily highs and warm minimums, and for average temperatures). And, this is happening globally, with 2015 blasting through the record books and surpassing 2014 as the warmest year on record.

Back to the backyard …

Daily life is a form of cognitive dissonance.

Physically, these warm temperatures are a joy. Bike riding and walking with t-shirts, having windows open for fresh air, not having to be bundled up with heavy winter clothing.

Yet … this is beyond bizarre, the changed backyard is ominous to the extent of ‘climate changed’ rather than ‘the climate will change’.  In the past ‘normal’, roses from the garden aren’t supplying cut flowers for the household at the end of the year.  Wild lettuce never provided a New Year’s day salad.

If ‘new normal’ were only about enjoying standing outside talking to neighbors and eating fresh food from the garden, then there’d be reason to embrace it … sadly, that is not the dominant outcome.

From disrupted wildlife and agriculture, to more severe storms, to rising seas, to … climate change threatens us.

And, even while tomorrow’s impacts will be greater than today’s, as my (and your) changed backyard shows, these threats are truly upon us now …


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Tags: climate change

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