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Change For The Better; TEMPERATURES up around 10 C at the start of the bat to be out flying in Heswall, prompted thoughts of global warming; thoughts which were quickly revised this week when the frost came and I saw the snow on the Welsh year, warm enough for a hills.

Meteorological data in the 1902 edition of the Flora of the Liverpool District betray no hint of global warming in the years 1870-1901, only that ``the variability of our winters is so great that a difference of two months in the time of flowering of many of our early wildflowers is not uncommon''.

In 1898 lesser celandine was already in flower on January 18, coltsfoot on February 3, whereas only two years later, in 1900, first dates were not until March 5 and March 16 respectively. Last year, 2002, lesser celandine was in flower by January 25 and coltsfoot on February 1, similar to the 1898 dates. Climate change was first noted in the Arctic a hundred years ago. Cod started moving north and were first seen off the east coast of Greenland in 1912. By 1930 they had become so plentiful that they formed the staple diet of the local population. Locally the arrival of trigger fish is a sign of warming British waters. Thirty years ago they were still restricted to the waters off Portugal and Spain but they are now being caught in increasing numbers. Just on a year ago one was found dead at Hilbre Island for the first time.

Most people probably associate global warming with man-made emissions, especially from cars and other vehicles. But as long ago as 1912 Otto Pettersson, a Swedish scientist, identified a link between climatic variation and cycles of tidal activity, cycles which work over a period of 18 centuries. That is astronomical fact, not theory. The last period of maximum tides - and most rigorous climate - was around 1433AD. Despite fluctations based on minor astronomical cycles we should continue to enjoy a milder climate, if not all the consequences, until 2400AD when the climate will gradually start to deteriorate again. A long-range weather forecast for future planning perhaps. In the meantime various species of flowers and butterflies have been steadily extending their range northwards and there seems to have been a veritable explosion in dragonfly species and numbers. For example, the beautiful migrant hawker had not been recorded in the North-west before 1955. Now it is widespread and breeding locally.

On a smaller scale the tiny gall wasp Andricus quercuscalicis used to be restricted to central and southern Europe. It is only in the last 30 years that strangely misshapen, `genetically modified' acorns have betrayed their presence on Merseyside, even on the famous Allerton Oak in Calderstones Park.

Not all changes in flora and fauna can be attributed to global warming, of course.

Especially in urban areas like Merseyside planting trees and changes in park and garden fashion can encourage new species of insects, butterflies and consequently birds, predators and scavengers. There is a wonderful opportunity to gain insight into the dynamics of urban wildlife when Colin Twist gives an illustrated talk ``The Wildlife of Merseyside'' next Saturday, January 18, at 2pm in Bluecoat Chambers just off Church Street, Liverpool. A date for your diary. Free admission and open to all, so please come along. You will be surprised just how much nature there is right on your very own doorstep.

Bob Hughes

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GLOBAL WARMING: the beautiful migrant hawker is one of the recent additions to our local flora and fauna; Picture: Ron King
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:Jan 11, 2003
Words:546
Previous Article:Diary.
Next Article:All change down on the farm.


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