Two ways to watch the spring:
I am an enthusiast on the matter of the planet getting warmer.  Of course as usual I have my own slant on things.  For one thing, it’s really hot.  It’s getting hotter.  Most say that means it will continue to get hotter.  I say it’s always hottest just before it starts to get cold again.  Both assertions are true; it’s just a matter of emphasis.  Similarly the mainstream sees the driving force of warming to be CO2 released by the burning of fossil fuels.  I am no friend of fossil fuels.  As far as I am concerned the dominance of the gasoline powered car is in part due to the fact that kerosene is a byproduct of making gasoline; kerosene is jet fuel.  Drive your car to the filling station and you are going to subsidize travel by the jet set.  Personally I would rather not.  Sure CO2 causes warming.  If it were not so they would have told us.  But when I see a jet leaving a smudge of oxidized nitrogen behind it in the sky I think, “Now there is a cause of global warming I can see.”  The opaque stuff equilibrates with the sun and the empty sky and seeks the temperature that otherwise would be sought by the same process down here.  And as you go down it gets hotter.  It’s a matter of emphasis again.

So grant me it’s getting warmer.  That means an earlier spring.  And scientists like to predict just how that is going to occur.  There are two obvious ways to collect data.  One is what you might call the Thoreau approach.  It was said that if you took a walk with Henry David Thoreau in the spring he knew the timing of the flowers so well that they seemed to pop out magically at his word.  I guess he spent a lot of time wandering around in the woods correlating things.  In a more formal fashion, you just keep track of the temperature and the first appearance of various kinds of flower and see how they correlate.  The second approach is to use artificial means to cause local warming around a selection of plants and see how their time of blossom compares with the undisturbed plants around and about. 

Those two methods have been compared.  (E. M. Wolkovich et al Warming Experiments Underpredict Plant Phenological Responses to Climate Change NATURE vol. 485 nol7399 May 24, 2012 page 494) The results are quite different.  Or course this is rather a refinement, but there seems to me to be a rather general principle in science: find a new way to look at something and you will see it differently.  Most famously or course there is the question of the nature of light; if you look at it one way it is a wave while looked at a different way it is a particle.

There is a wonderful movie I saw as a child, “Lady and the Tramp.” It is a cartoon about animals.  One of the characters is a Scotch Terrier named “Scottie,” who hoards bones.  At one point the principles come and talk with him.  He seems a bit distracted and then the viewpoint changes and you see he is sitting on an unstable pile of bones.  The responses I have seen to the article kind of remind me of that.  Others don’t like to see evidence in conflict.  They are eager to cover the issue because it kind of seems to compromise the omniscience of science.  Of course science is not omniscient; that’s why they all have jobs. 

Just don’t get the idea science has everything well in hand.  There are vast uncertainties. 

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