Sunday, October 4, 2009

Amateur Climate Forensics

I admit I am not a scientist, I have no special expertise in botany, or physics, or paleontology, or chemistry.  In fact I am woefully ignorant of science.  But I can see.  And what I see is very, very strange.  I do not recognize the landscape I have known all my life any longer.

I can remember when I was a teenager taking a trip along the Kancamagus Highway across New Hampshire.  It runs through a deep long valley cut by the river, with steep mountains rising on either side.  Oh the glorious colors!  It was just as beautiful and intense as snorkeling in St. John, back before the coral reefs were bleached.

So keep in mind that the trees now are not at all what they should be.  Those shriveled brown and falling leaves should be brilliantly colored, firmly fastened to their branches until frost (current temperature as I type, at 8:20 pm, is 60 degrees F).

The leaf above is a random weed I don't recognize.  But it so resembles the watermelon leaf, no?
I found a few stunningly beautiful images on Sunday, when I went to visit the Smart Smokin' Hot Brat, who was in urgent need of a sequined sheath, for a Gatsbyesque '20's costume gala, with skating club friends.  And how appropriate, almost inevitable, for Princeton - so how could I refuse?
I was on campus only a couple of weeks ago, and the pace of deterioration is breathtaking.  Breathtaking in the sense that, it is so frightening I can hardly breathe.

But the rest of you, go along and don't worry!

Following is a series of trees in town and on campus, and various other plants.
Above are the leaves of the bush with the purple berries.  It has the odd juxtaposition of older, darker leaves, with abrupt new growth, lighter in color, veined, a little frantic perhaps.  More on that further down.

Above is a corner of the famed Palmer Square with a very large tree that has bare branches, the sure prelude to a terminal condition.  
The young, recently planted trees are in no better shape than old trees.

This weeping cherry is going bald, and the leaves are lacking chlorophyll.

I think this is a viburnum - upon inspection, the edges of the leaves are singed.  And of course, they are falling on the ground.

A beech losing leaves, and those remaining thus far.

These bare trees are magnolias.  They must look magnificent when blooming in the spring but I doubt they will in 2010.
The few leaves that remain show the stippling from pores that are damaged.

A copper beech whose leaves are tipped with brown.

Below is Prospect Street, where the Eating Clubs are located.
Approaching the trees, it becomes evident that they aren't turning fall color - the leaves are fading and scorched.

On the right is a large sycamore, and here are samples of the leaves, those that haven't already fallen off, with increasing levels of damage:
Above, stippling.
Above, brown spotting.
Above, a specter of doom.
It's Rush Week.  I feel so sorry for the students.  Most likely, none of them has a clue that their future isn't going to resemble their expectations in the slightest.  I worry incessantly that when  people finally come to understand that our world is undergoing seismic (literally!) adjustments that aren't going to be the least pleasant, for anybody, no matter how rich, everyone is going to just go berserk.  I worry about anarchy and marshall law and rampant nuclear explosions.  In a way, I want people to recognize how destabilized our environment is, so we can start to address it.  But I also feel that it is so overwhelming, that the vast majority of people, if they do comprehend it, will just freak out!
More trees that almost maybe seem like they are behaving autumn as usual, and more leaves that demonstrate they most certainly are NOT.

I mentioned a few days ago that these sorts of conifers (spruce?) are suddenly turning yellow the last couple of weeks, and that I expected them at this rate to be bare by the end of this winter.  Well, I cannot believe how fast they are turning.

Now from dying trees I am going to segue into peculiar reactions.  Different species - and sometimes specimens within the same species - display different responses to the increasingly toxic environment they inhabit.  One is a spurt of growth.  Another is an overabundance of seeds, cones, or flowers, because the plant is throwing all its energy into reproduction rather than just growing larger.  So I've seen a number of seeds I never have before, especially on trees.  Many trees that are genetically  programmed to live for centuries only feel the need to reproduce infrequently.  So here are some anomalous examples of a few plants I've seen recently.

Some wisteria leaves show the familiar mottling from the interference with photosynthesis, but these leaves are astonishingly PURE white!

The ivy is turning all sorts of abnormal hues, but it also is a frequent example of mini foliage.
The cascade below is another example of recent mini new growth, of a different color than the earlier leaves.
These ferns are truly mini, compare them to my keys, and the bricks.  The biomass is shrinking, which shouldn't be a surprise.  Individual leaves are smaller, branches are thinner, trunks are thinner, the tops of trees are actually shorter.  Think, a starving person, losing weight.  Also, I saw the fox again tonight and he was the skinniest fox I ever saw.

Above is the original seed formation in which I found the divine Flying Spaghetti Monster, who I now worship, with abandon.  To my humiliation, I discovered two of my daughters have known about FSM for years, when I thought I had made this remarkably clever discovery!  Oh well, they didn't know about Blingee, so perhaps I'm not completely decrepit and useless.  Below is the FSM tree.
And now, I see FSM everywhere I go.  These edible mushrooms, known as puff-balls, I used to pick, slice, dip in egg batter and fry.  I could regularly find them as large as grapefruits.  Now they are mini, and, dare I suggest, also an apparition of the FSM???
A final freak.  Happy Halloween.
On my wanderings in Princeton, I actually came across one of the now elusive, once ubiquitous, black squirrels!
(with clumps of fallen oak branches around him).

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