Some say the menace of climate change has been overblown: but they couldn’t be more wrong, as it has emerged that global warming is set to extirpate – or anyway, seriously annoy – the lovable arctic reindeer.
This is because, according to a new climate model, a warming arctic will soon be overrun with bloodlusting mosquitoes which will descend in thirsty swarms on the hapless circumpolar reindeer/caribou.
“Increased mosquito abundance, in addition to northward range expansions of additional pest species, will have negative consequences for the health and reproduction of caribou,” says postdoc researcher Lauren Culler of the Dickey Center Institute of Arctic Studies, in tinned quotes supplied to the media.
“Warming in the Arctic can thus challenge the sustainability of wild caribou and managed reindeer in Fennoscandia (Norway, Sweden, Finland and parts of northwest Russia), which are an important subsistence resource for local communities.”
The Dickey analysis, newly published in the august Proceedings of the Royal Society B, says much the same thing but more scientifically:
Our studies showed that warming increased development rate of immature mosquitoes (Q10 = 2.8) but also increased daily mortality from increased predation rates by a dytiscid beetle (Q10 = 1.2–1.5). Despite increased daily mortality, the model indicated that faster development and fewer days exposed to predators resulted in an increased probability of mosquito survival to the adult stage. Warming also advanced mosquito phenology, bringing mosquitoes into phenological synchrony with caribou. Increases in biting pests will have negative consequences for caribou and their role as a subsistence resource for local communities.
Reindeer in Lapland are not only a subsistence resource: they’re also popular for pulling sleighs, if mainly as a tourist attraction these days. It’s not clear just how or if the airborne, North Pole-based reindeer favoured by Mr Claus will be affected, but there has to be at least some risk that we’re looking here at the Blood Feast Mosquitoes That Ate Christmas.
It’s a sobering prospect – but we have to remember that so far this is only what is told us by a model, and you can’t always trust models. And indeed there are differing scientific views of what’s up in the Arctic. The Dickey centre tells us that “Warming temperatures are causing Arctic mosquitoes to grow faster and emerge earlier”, but on the other hand tree ring research a few years ago appeared to show that Arctic temperatures actually fell in the latter half of the twentieth century, as opposed to rising.
In other festive-season related recent climate news, it seems that recent changes in various powerful climate processes in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans might well mean snowier winters for many Reg readers – and even, perhaps, an extension of the current fifteen-year temporary halt in global warming.
So there might at least be some white Christmases ahead – and perhaps even a few reindeer left to pull the sleighs.
At the moment the sturdy R tarandi are doing very well, at any rate.