OT? Global Warming

Kenneth Hixson khixson@nu-world.com
Mon, 09 Jan 2006 12:35:39 PST
HI, All
	This is a fascinating thread, and we can argue about it for a
long time.  Some of us believe the worst, some of us believe otherwise.
The reason for that is very simple.  We know some of the facts, but
by no means all of them.  We know there is water in the glass, and it
is either half full, or half empty, but is that the normal state of affairs?
Is there perhaps a crack in the glass that we can't see, letting water out?
We are beginning to understand some of  the checks and balances
built into world weather, but not all of them or how they function.
For instance, it is often claimed that the world is getting warmer.
These claims are based on recent weather, compared with fairly
recent historical past weather--after all, we don't have very
good weather records beyond a couple hundred years.  A couple
hundred years ago we were coming out of a mini-ice age, so anything
now looks excessively warm.  The fact is, we are speculating that we
know what past weather was, and will be in the future.  Most of the
speculations I've seen do not mention that as the carbon dioxide
increases and the earth warms, plants also grow faster--with every
ten degrees F, plant growth approximately doubles, thus absorbing more
carbon dioxide.  At some point plant growth will absorb all the new
carbon dioxide.  As ice melts, it absorbs immense amounts of heat
(specific heat), and the fresh water expands the oceans, which
reflects more light back into space.
	About thirty years ago, with the  advent of weather satellites
in space, it was discovered that there was a hole in the ozone layer,
and it was getting bigger.  The chicken littles rushed around crying
"The sky is falling, the sky is falling", or rather, "The ozone layer is
shrinking".  There was a lot of speculation about the bad effects of this,
but to this day I've never seen any definitive statement whether or not
it is an entirely normal thing which expands and contracts, or is purely
a result of man's activities. I suspect there is a check, and the ozone
layer hole will start to close by some effect we do not yet know or
	We think we know the earth's magnetic poles are shifting,
but why, and what effect will it have on the weather?  Will the Northern
lights now occur over California?   And so on.

	In addition to Mark's comments about disease in Napoleon's
armies, feeding his armies was a tremendous problem, in a time
when preserving and transporting food was a huge problem.  Napoleon
offered a huge reward for anyone who could help preserve food,
and Louis Pastuer won the award for the process now called pasteurization,
of heat treating food.  Canning food as a means of preservation
is the result, prior to which food was preserved by drying, pickling or
salting. It probably wouldn't have helped Napoleon's armies even if there
was  enough food available (with all able bodied men in the army instead
of raising food) simply because the transport was inadequate to
ship enough food the tremendous distance involved.

	Dave made a comment about the "scorned potato".  What needs
to be kept in mind is that the potato was not introduced into Europe
until the americas were discovered, and food plants were not the first
thing looted from the americas.  The potatos brought back to Europe
were not adapted to European conditions, and several generations of
selection needed to done before they adapted to become a meaningful
food crop.  Building up adequate "seed stocks" of the new crop, and
distributing it to appropriate areas also took time.  Then, subsistance
farmers are notoriously slow to adopt new crops, so getting potatos
to become a dependable food source took time.  Just when it became
a staple of the diet, the disease late blight hit and caused widespread
famine in a population that had adapted to the new food source.  The
potato was scorned because of the famine, when it became obvious
that the new food source was not as dependable as had been hoped.

	Dave also commented that the romans brought grapes to Europe
(and specifically England) and wine was the drink of choice.  Perhaps
for the nobility, but the peasants in England probably never saw it.  The
grapes were probably those that were adapted to Italy, and lacked cold
tolerance.   Getting grapes with cold hardiness again required time, and
an  understanding of the need.  The area of central Europe would have
been the logical source of cold hardy grapes, but the romans were in a
constant state of  warfare with the peoples of central europe, if the people
there even grew grapes.

	What does this mean to me as a grower of bulbs?  Well,
the USDA now lists my area as Zone 8, as winters for the past thirty
years haven't gotten much below +15F.  However, in my lifetime
it has been -12F (December 1972), twice minus 5F, and several times
to just above 0F.  When I'm in zone denial, I try to grow Hedychium
gardnerianum, Dahlias and Cannas.  The Hedychium this year has
tolerated a couple days of +25F, though it looks badly frostburned
right now.  I realize I'm gambling, and if I lose plants, I'll know that
it isn't the end of the world.  My lifetime is the blink of an eye on a
geological time scale, and this area probably isn't Zone 8, even though
I've been enjoying the fact that it has been warmer than usual.  Will
it be -5F within the next ten years?  I won't bet against it.


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