Friday, January 05, 2007

Spring or winter?

Cow parsley in full flower - but in early JanuaryWhat time of the year is it? It's 5th January, 2007. Today was mild and sunny and look what I found in full flower in one of the hedgerows: it's cow parsley (a member of the carrot family).

Where am I? Latitude 52.53 North (New York city is 40°47' N) where the days are, right now, almost as short as they get since we're only 2 weeks past the winter solstice.

What's the weather like? It's Wales so we expect gales and rain. And we've had gales and rain most of the time for a couple of months. Normally we'd expect a few frosts by this time of year but so far there have been none here (70 metres above sealevel on a peninsula surrounded by the sea though my farm is 5 kilometres inland).

What's up? My Oxford book of wild flowers tells me that the season for this cow parsley to flower is April-June. So what's going on? This 'winter' is the mildest for I don't know how many years. The Met Office says that '2007 is likely to be the warmest year on record globally, beating the current record set in 1998'. And that's after the warmest autumn on record. I leave you to draw your own conclusions about what's up with the weather and the climate which hosts it.

The downside of mild winters: I grow vegetables for a living. The picture below is a view of my polytunnel crops this afternoon.
Vegetables growing in the polytunnel, but look at the way the mildew affects the lettuce leaves (inset) in this mild damp weather
It all looks quite neat and productive, don't you think? But look at the inset of the lettuce; the bottom leaves of the plant are all but consumed by downy mildew which is a serious problem in mild damp weather. If it's properly cold, the fungal spores become inactive but this hasn't happened at all this winter and the result has been serious damage to hundreds of lettuces. I've had to throw away many of them because of the mildew.


So it may be agreeable for many of us not connected to food production to experience mild winters but it certainly doesn't suit the plants, many of which think it's spring. As if to emphasise this point, I saw a really weird sight this afternoon: small potato plants growing in the ground where I'd left some tubers. Potato plants are particularly susceptible to frosts and would normally be wiped out in October or November. Not this year. A taste of things to come perhaps? Severe gales, endless heavy rain and mildness. Come to think of it, that's just what the climate models predict for a warming world, isn't it?

Finally, my Link of the Week from the Union of Concerned Scientists: ExxonMobil’s Tobacco-like Disinformation Campaign on Global Warming Science

1 comment:

keith.farnish said...

My beautiful Mountbatten rose has produced a yellow flower. This has never happened in January. There is only so much distance that anecdotal evidence can take you, but how much anecdotal evidence will it take to show that things are changing NOW, and that we have to change society NOW?

Good luck with being a pain in the backside to the great and not so good.

Keith Farnish
www.theearthblog.org