Sunday, November 13, 2011

Leaves not Falling

Tree by my house 11-13-11
I do think about global warming now and then.  I write about it less frequently than I think about it.  Thoughts of global warming are usually triggered by crazy extremes.  It might be an exceptional cold spell in the summer or the extreme flooding that has suspend both business and daily activities in Thailand.  Another example could be the October blizzards in New York and New England that shut down everything and left millions without power for over a week.

Sometimes I think about global warming because of trend that I think that I see.  This year the leaves seemed reluctant to fall.  It is November 10 and I am sitting in a Starbucks at dawn awaiting a meeting with a prospective client.  As I look out the window, it seems like half of the trees still have leaves on them.  This seems is late.   The trees with leaves still on them are the maples and oaks:  the hardwoods.  These are usually the last trees to drop their leaves.  The softer woods, the aspens and ashes, are the first.

My recollection is that by the first of November, be it Detroit, Connecticut, or now Chicago, the leaves were usually gone.  The weather also takes decided turn toward the colder.  As far as the weather, that actually happened a week ago.  There is definitely a mid-fall chill going.  The heavier coats are out.  But, there are still too many leaves still on the trees.

I am a Professor of Statistics so I know that there is good chance this year is just part of the ebb and flow, the natural year to year variation, of how fall transforms summer into winter.  This could be at the long end of that variation.  It might be a sign that the globe is warming.  I would have had to have kept better records to actually have drawn an actual statistical conclusion.  I would have to see a trend that is established over a period of years.  That, of course, would have taken initiative, planning, and dedication.  I am more of a casual observer than even an amateur climate scientist.

I think back to the shamans, medicine men, and wise elders of native peoples.  It was a time before all of the modern diversions.  There were no TV or internet.  There was not even electricity.  Smart people noticed the natural world and the yearly cycles.  They had a practical knowledge that was passed on orally.  They may have not had official months or written calendars, but they could measure the number of moons from when the leaves budded and sprouted until they turned color and began to drop.  They would know by lore and necessity when the weather is expected to change.

Late or not, global or warming or not, I am not sure.  Will it still a cold, snowy, and long winter?  Or are we a few years away from the leaves never falling?  I cannot answer any of those questions.  All I can say is that I think the leaves are taking noticeably longer to fall this year.

Hey, it is just something I think I noticed.

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