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Opinion - Mosquitoes And Hay

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Matt Shuler

There are some sayings in North Park. One that I remember is that if the mosquitoes are really bad, the hay crop will be really good. Now in the midst of a real winter here in North Park, there are no mosquitoes flying around. The temperature is getting cold enough that pine beetles may not like staying in the woods. But as you should know, there aren’t any pine trees left for the pine beetles to eat. The young ones that are growing typically aren’t eaten by the bugs. But the cold weather will keep the ones that are getting big enough for the beetles to consider eating might stay away until the trees get old enough to be cut down and used for lumber.

Oh, I forgot. We don’t manage forests like that anymore. They will grow big enough to be burnt down in a forest fire that doesn’t have clear cuts in the way to stop the spread of big fires. That result of forest management is got a new thing to blame, climate change. 

Every news story now a days contributes some aspect to the climate changing. Climate change is the biggest cause of everything that ails modern man. It is almost as plausible as the elixir salesman at the turn of the 20th Century. They sold stuff that could fix anything. Colds, fever, aches and pains, arthritis, boils, bunions and all sorts of maladies. Today Climate Change is the blame for just about everything. 

Even the snow and cold that North Park is experiencing. Some people think its as cold as it has ever been in North Park. While a few of us call this sort of winter a culling winter. You haven’t heard of a culling winter? That is a North Park winter that seperates the North Parkers from everyone else. When North Park is white with snow taller than the sage brush, winter can be brutal. If there is any snow and wind, drifts can fill in any progress a person has made plowing roads. The ice can really stay and in Walden the streets and sidewalks can really get piled up. Last year we had about 10 feet of snow in two weeks. Nobody could find a place to push it, shovel it, snow blow it and pile it. The Colorado Department of Transportation had meetings with the Town and County. The Sheriff’s Office was threatening tickets. The roads and drifts were everywhere for about a month. 

That hasn’t happened this year. But the snow hasn’t left and isn’t going anywhere fast this year. The road crews have done a great job shorthanded. But when the snow is over the sage brush, drifting and winter never seem to end. 

And somewhere an elementary student is smart enough to know that the white snow reflects the sunlight and warming it brings. When the sage brush starts to show, the same elementary student can see that the darker color of the ground absorbs more heat. More heat melts the snow and ice. The water soaks into the ground or runs into the creeks. As the sun gets higher into the sky and the days get longer, the heat lasts for more hours of the day. Just like the calendar says it should. And the seasons progress. The climate changes. 

I don’t understand how some people in Iowa or the midwest can drive by great big boulders in the middle of places that don’t have mountains and wonder where the boulder came from. They came from glaciers that aren’t there anymore. I bet the glaciers had polar bears living on them at one time. And those glaciers got down as far south as say Missouri. They glaciers aren’t there anymore. That signals that we are coming out of an ice age. The winters get cold. The summers get warm and the amount of ground that is heated changes when the snow that is white and on top of the ground goes away. The more ground that is not white, absorbs more energy and doesn’t reflect energy like snow and ice do. The climate has been changing for thousands of years. And we think we are accelerating the rate? Wow. It reminds me of a song about being “So Vane.” You’re SO Vane You think Climate Change Is About You.

Well, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the earth is constantly changing. “Earth is always on the move, constantly, if slowly, changing. Temperatures rise and fall in cycles over millions of years. The last ice age occurred just 16,000 years ago, when great sheets of ice, two miles thick, covered much of Earth's Northern Hemisphere. Though the ice melted long ago, the land once under and around the ice is still rising and falling in reaction to its ice-age burden.

This ongoing movement of land is called glacial isostatic adjustment. Here's how it works: Imagine lying down on a soft mattress and then getting up from the same spot. You see an indentation in the mattress where your body had been, and a puffed-up area around the indentation where the mattress rose. Once you get up, the mattress takes a little time before it relaxes back to its original shape. 

Even the strongest materials (including the Earth's crust) move, or deform, when enough pressure is applied. So, when ice by the megaton settled on parts of the Earth for several thousand years, the ice bore down on the land beneath it, and the land rose up beyond the ice's perimeter—just like the mattress did when you lay down on and then got up off of it.

That's what happened over large portions of the Northern Hemisphere during the last ice age, when ice covered the Midwest and Northeast United States as well as much of Canada. Even though the ice retreated long ago, North America is still rising where the massive layers of ice pushed it down. The U.S. East Coast and Great Lakes regions—once on the bulging edges, or forebulge, of those ancient ice layers—are still slowly sinking from forebulge collapse,” according to their website. 

It's kinda hard to know where things are supposed to be, especially when things are constantly changing. But this year’s culling winter should have a wet summer and a good hay crop. And with a good hay crop the mosquitoes should be really bad this summer. Plan accordingly. Fish like bugs. People like to catch fish. Just don’t forget your bug spray. Thanks for reading. And don’t feel too guilty when you smack that mosquito. She got there because of climate change. Do your part and smack that blood sucker.

Matthew Shuler is the Editor and Publisher of the Jackson County Star in Walden, Colorado.