I'm performing an unnatural act that, although enjoyable, is creeping me out. And I'm not alone in feeling this way. It happened to many of us this past winter.
• I'm in my boat, the pelicans are diving, the fish are biting, and the occasional spray of cool bay water feels delightful on my sun-warmed skin. I'm in the middle of one of the best striper runs in decades. There's just one problem: It's not supposed to be like this. Not right here, not right now. It seems as if nature has gone all bizarro - because I'm enjoying this wonderful day in mid-January on the Chesapeake Bay. By all rights, the fish I'm after should be far to the south while my boat resides under shrink-wrap.
• Those of us who were slow to put our boats away last fall enjoyed the longest boating season the East Coast has ever seen. November and December were unusually mild, and January was downright hot. The hottest on record for many areas up and down the seaboard. Creeks remained ice-free, fish and waterfowl were months behind schedule on their usual fall migrations, and boating in some places was possible - even pleasurable - right up to the week before Groundhog Day. Weird.
Just the Facts, Ma'am
Things are warming up - and have been for quite a while. That's a fact. But what remains questionable is whether that's due to cow flatulence or the output from your SUV. If you want to know what's causing global warming, listen to AM talk radio while watching An Inconvenient Truth and simultaneously running a Google search. We'll stand back and watch as your head explodes. You'll get more contradictory "science" and misinformation than you would from listening to Honda salesmen having a two-versus-four-stroke debate with the E-Tec PR team. So we're not going to touch the "what's responsible" question with a 10' boathook. We're just going to stick to the facts as we know them.
Fact: Last August a manatee from Florida was sighted in the Hudson River off New York City.
Fact: The 2006 average annual temperature for the contiguous United States was the warmest on record and nearly identical to the record set in 1998, according to scientists at the NOAA National Climatic Data Center.
Fact: Marine migrations have gone haywire:
• There was a winter striper run in the Chesapeake. • Croaker are now commonly found in northern New Jersey, where they were previously thought of as rare. • Tropical lionfish have been found as far north as the Long Island Sound and have established solid populations as far north as North Carolina. • Runs of squid on the Pacific coast are becoming more common and are reaching farther north. • Cobia, once thought of as a southern sportfish, have been turning up as far north as New York, with more showing up each year.
Fact: From the EPA: • Since the mid-1970s the average surface temperature has warmed about 1°F. • The Earth's surface is currently warming at a rate of about 0.32°F per decade or 3.2°F per century. • Worldwide, the five warmest years over the last century have been 2005, 1998, 2002, 2003, and 2004. The top 10 warmest years have all occurred since 1990.
Fact: The Pentagon's paper "An Abrupt Climate Change Has Substantial Implications For U.S. National Security" opens by stating, "Substantial evidence exists to indicate significant global warming will occur in the 21st century." We don't know why our climate is getting warmer, but it is. This could be bad, good, or nothing at all. But it's here, so let's make the most of it.