Year 4, Month 5, Day 9: Great Green Gobs…

The Lewiston Sun-Journal (ME) runs a good article from a trio of scientists, explaining all about fish kills:

Last summer, hundreds of economically valuable, fun-to-catch trout died at Lake Auburn. Some people blamed this event on “global warming,” but were they right to do so? It’s hard to say for sure, but the early ice-out and warm summer temperatures in 2012 did probably play a role, in combination with other, locally controlled factors.

To understand what happened to the fish, we need to know a bit about how lakes work.

During the summer, deep lakes stratify — divide horizontally — into a warm, well-lit upper layer and a cold, dark lower layer. Sunfish, like bass and bluegills, grow fastest at water temperatures around 80 degrees F, so they tend to live near the surface of the lake. However, lake trout and other salmonids live in the deeper layer, since they grow best at temperatures around 48 degrees F and cannot tolerate temperatures above 75-80 degrees F.

Last summer, a large bloom of phytoplankton — algae and cyanobacteria (sometimes called blue-green algae) — developed in Lake Auburn. Phytoplankton growth got an early start when the ice went out in late March 2012, which was the second-earliest ice-out ever recorded for the lake.

More science in the popular press! April 28:

Fish kills are one of many ways that climate change, usually thought of as a planet-wide problem, manifests itself locally. The consequences of our civilization’s century-long carbon fuel binge will differ radically, depending on the particular regional environment — and this variety of impact creates another problem. Our news media’s fixation on simplistic explanations of complex phenomena means that even though its epiphenomena (freak storms, torrential rainfalls, droughts, forest fires, fish kills) may lead the nightly newscasts, the climate crisis will not be televised.

Of course, it’s not just that our collective national ADD makes it impossible for us to understand the greenhouse effect, and for our pundits to explain it. Our broadcast and print outlets are also prone to the fallacy of false equivalence, in which a scientist’s measured statement about global warming is “balanced” by the dismissive rhetoric of a petroleum-industry shill. Climate change’s effects can no longer be ignored or trivialized; Drs. Cottingham, Ewing and Weathers deserve our appreciation for their careful explanation of how a global phenomenon can manifest itself in a single lake.

Warren Senders

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