Editor's note: This is the latest in a series of stories about how climate changed and is changing our world -- spiritually, physically -- as a result. Find more climate change coverage here.
While Gabriele Hegerle spends her time researching climate change data, some people, including the staff at the Carpenter St. Croix Nature Center near Hastings, Minnesota, and Hudson, Wisconsin, live with the effects of what that data is telling us.
The staff have kept records for 35 years of the arrival dates of migratory birds, and have noticed changes in the arrivals of several species, according to Jennifer Vieth, executive director.
Vieth also noted that the horticulture team, which works in the teaching orchard, has seen changes in growing conditions.
“We have had an increase in rodent damage in late winter,” said Sverre Sundgaard, orchard manager. “The deep snows provide cover from predators, and they also run low on food by then, so they start to chew on the apple tree trunks.”
The deep snow can make it difficult or impossible for orchard staff to prune and care for the trees. In addition, heavy and consistent rain can leave the apple trees in standing water, according to Sundgaard.
“All apple pests prefer a wet environment,” he said, “and they are continuing to get a long summer of wet conditions, with rains often happening before the leaves and fruit can even get a chance to dry.”
Sundgaard said he talked with Dr. Mark Seeley, climatologist at the University of Minnesota, and Seeley explained that Minnesota now receives the same annual precipitation as historically falls in Birmingham, Ala.. Seeley also noted that heavy rain or snow storms are often followed by tornadoes, high winds, and flooding.
“Weather is very hard to predict these days,” Sundgaard said, “whether planning for tree work or harvest or spraying. Apple growers could generally expect a dry period after the initial early spring and summer rains. Of recent, this has not been the case.”