Thursday, February 2, 2012

Jumanji Effect Hits Maine

An interesting news item caught my attention this morning. While scrolling through online news items, I saw the following headline: “The Jumanji effect? Extra warm winter playing havoc with hibernating animals.”

Does that sound familiar? It should, at least to readers of this blog. Back in early January, I reported on hibernating animals that had stirred, prematurely from their rest, spurred by unusually warm weather.

Here is a quote from the Fox News story: “But rather than hibernating through freezing snowstorms, nature is being awakened by the weird warmth. Even black bears are likely to rise early from their October to March slumber – and they’ll be ravenous, said Paul Curtis, a professor of natural resources and wildlife specialist with Cornell University.”

The article went on to predict a boom in the tick population…bad news for we Mainers. Deer ticks carry Lyme disease, a debilitating and most miserable illness if left undiagnosed and untreated. The Center For Disease Control now recommends a prophylactic dose of antibiotics for tick bites.

Interestingly, while thus far the winter has been something less than an “old-fashioned Maine winter,” Maine has remained far colder than states to our south. Which reminds me to point out that very often, Maine (excepting Alaska) sees the coldest temperatures in the nation.

Still, even we in Maine are subject to change because of this mild season. Of course it has happened before and will happen again. But looking to the future, we might well anticipate an end to the overly-wet conditions that have kept groundwater at extreme high levels.

Winter snows contribute greatly to spring runoff and when we have little snow, runoff from melting ice happens quickly and water levels soon drop to low levels. Unless spring brings lots of rain, Maine may see low water conditions this year.

Even this is not all bad. Many of us who cut our own firewood have experienced difficulty traversing wet areas, places that because of the extended period of high water would normally be dry.

Fishermen, too, may have an earlier season than usual, especially if runoff occurs quickly. Rivers and streams that would see high-water conditions in early spring may present us with pleasant conditions. That doesn’t make for good news for whitewater canoeists, but for every plus, someone else usually gets handed a minus.

In the end, we will roll with the punches. And just maybe, we’ll get our gardens in earlier than usual. Perhaps dry, warm weather will promote a good, healthy crop of tomatoes.

As for me, I’ll try and look for the good in whatever our local climate dishes out.

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