The Good News: Invasive species dying off because of cold snap

The good news about the cold:

DULUTH, MN — When it’s so cold your face hurts, and it’s hard to talk, it’s easy to forget there are actually some positives that come with these extreme cold temps.

We’re all-too-familiar with the Emerald Ash Borer in our region.

We’re also familiar with the bitter January cold, which right now, may be killing off the larvae of the invasive species.

“When temperatures get to about 20 below zero Fahrenheit, we see about 50% of the Emerald Ash Borer Larvae begin to die,” said Rob Venette, director of the Minnesota Invasive Terrestrial Plants and Pests Center with the University of Minnesota.

Researchers at the U of M have been studying the effects cold weather may have on the Emerald Ash Borer for years.

Experts say at 30 below and colder, as much as 90% of the ash borer larva could be dying off.

“Once ice begins to form in their bodies, that kills the insect,” said Venette.

The insects are not impacted by wind-chill. So, the actual temperature is what must be considered, which can oftentimes be colder than where insects burrow for the winter.

“Although we may be experiencing minus 40, it may only be maybe minus 35 under the bark of a tree. So, that helps the chances of an insect to survive,” said Venette.

Venette added, even though they are expecting large amounts of Emerald Ash Borers to die off as a result of this cold snap, that won’t impact how they survey the population in the spring.

Dr. Robert Sterner, director of the Large Lakes Observatory, says the cold could be putting a dent in the aquatic invasive species in Lake Superior, as well.

“The invasive species are coming from places in the world that typically aren’t as cold as we experience in a cold winter here,” he said.

Meaning the cold could be enough of a shock to kill at least a portion of them.

“We believe there is a relationship between warming conditions and the success of invasive species. So, weather like this is only good news as far as the native species go,” said Dr. Sterner.

And when lakes are covered in ice, water evaporation dramatically decreases, and typically, the water temperature is cooler in the summer.

“The combination of reduced winter evaporation and cooler summer surface temperatures means we keep more water within the lake volume,” said Dr. Sterner.

Increased water volume can be good for the shipping industry, and ecological systems within the lake. However, it is not very popular amongst shoreline homeowners as it can contribute to shoreline erosion.

More ice can also mean ice-out occurs later than normal, meaning colder lake water in the summer, which officials say could reduce the chances of algae blooms in lakes, as well.

That is contingent on the thaw and warming cycle in the spring and early summer.

 

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Cold Waves in the Eastern USA Are Down

Cold waves in Eastern USA are down according to Dr Roy Spencer.

As can be seen in the plot below, there is no evidence in the data supporting the claim that decreasing Arctic sea ice in recent decades is causing more frequent displacement of cold winter air masses into the eastern U.S., at least through the winter of 2017-18:

Nov-Mar-cold-waves-550x413

The trend is markedly downward in the most recent 40 years (since 1979) which is the earliest we have reliable measurements of Arctic sea ice from satellite microwave radiometers (my specialty).

Now, I suppose that Arctic sea ice decline could have some influence. But weather is immensely complex. Cause and effect is often difficult to ascertain.

At a minimum we should demand good observational support for any specific claim. In this case I would say that the connection between Eastern U.S. cold waves and Arctic sea ice is speculative, at best.

Just like most theories of climate change.

 

Japan: Cold Kills Almost 100x More Than Heat – Out of Hospital Cardiac Arrests

Cold Kills

“… out-of-hospital cardiac arrest (OHCA) is “an on-going public health issue with a high case fatality rate and associated with both patient and environmental factors,” including temperature. And recognizing the concern that exists over the potential impacts of climate change on human health, the two scientists set out to investigate the population attributable risk of OHCA in Japan due to temperature, and the relative contributions of low and high temperatures on that risk, for the period 2005-2014.

To accomplish their objective, Onozuka and Hagihara obtained OHCA data from the Japanese Fire and Disaster Management Agency of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications, which data amounted to over 650,000 cases in the ten-year period from all across the 47 Japanese prefectures. Thereafter, using climate data acquired from the Japan Meteorological Agency, they conducted a series of statistical analyses to determine the temperature-related health risk of OHCA.

Results of their study, in the words of the authors, “showed that temperature accounted for a substantial fraction of OHCAs, and that most of [the] morbidity burden was attributable to low temperatures.” Indeed, out of the nearly 24 percent of all OHCAs that were attributable to non-optimal temperature, low temperature was responsible for 23.64 percent. The fraction of OHCAs attributed to high temperature, in contrast, amounted to a paltry 0.29 percent — a morbidity burden that is two orders of magnitude smaller than that due to low temperature.

In further breaking down the temperature-OHCA relationship, Onozuka and Hagihara also examined the impact of extreme vs moderate temperatures, as well as the effects of gender and age on OHCA risk. With respect to extreme vs moderate temperatures, as shown in the figure below, the two scientists report that “the effect of extreme temperatures was substantially less than that of moderate temperatures.” For gender, they determined the attributable risk of OHCA was higher for females (26.86%) than males (21.12%). For age, they found that the elderly (75-110 years old) had the highest risk at 28.39%, followed by the middle-aged (65-74 years old, 25.24% attributable risk) and then the youngest section of the population (18-64 years old, 17.93% attributable risk).”

50,000 Excess Winter Deaths In UK 2017/2018 – Climate Change Kills Alright

Cold Kills

“New figures from the Office of National Statistics today show that the number of excess winter deaths exceeded 50,000 the highest on record since the winter of 1975/76. Over 15,000 of these deaths will be relatable directly to a cold home. The vast majority will have multiple hospital and GP visits behind them. The figures also worryingly show a doubling in the number of male deaths under 65.

Adam Scorer, Chief Executive of NEA commented:

“Today’s excess winter death figures should be a huge shock to the system. The cost in human suffering and lost lives is a tragedy. The cost to the NHS is significant and largely avoidable.

Predictable, preventable and shameful. We seem to have accepted excess winter deaths to be as much a part of winter as darker evenings.

On top of these preventable deaths we know that many millions more people will have suffered the preventable health impacts of living in a cold and damp home, as well as resorting to harmful coping strategies.

New evidence provided by frontline workers to NEA, has revealed the top 10 unsafe fuel poverty coping strategies being used to survive winter. The regular use of older, dangerous or un-serviced heating appliances is common place, despite being potentially fatal or leading to heightened risks for nearby neighbours as a result of carbon monoxide poisoning or in extreme situations, fires and explosions. The charity says many more people are going to bed early to keep warm and using candles to save on electricity. People struggling to heat their homes are also spending their days in heated spaces such as libraries, cafes or even A&E to avoid the cold.”

 

Some previous blog posts on the same subject.

 

Cold weather kills far more people than hot weather

Cold Kills

Cold weather kills 20 times as many people as hot weather, according to an international study analyzing over 74 million deaths in 384 locations across 13 countries. The findings also reveal that deaths due to moderately hot or cold weather substantially exceed those resulting from extreme heat waves or cold spells.

Around 7.71% of all deaths were caused by non-optimal temperatures, with substantial differences between countries, ranging from around 3% in Thailand, Brazil, and Sweden to about 11% in China, Italy, and Japan. Cold was responsible for the majority of these deaths (7.29% of all deaths), while just 0.42% of all deaths were attributable to heat.

The study also found that extreme temperatures were responsible for less than 1% of all deaths, while mildly sub-optimal temperatures accounted for around 7% of all deaths — with most (6.66% of all deaths) related to moderate cold.