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NORTHWOODS NATURE JOURNAL: Local phenologist calls for more weather data

Dallas Hudson would love to see that weather data prior to 1996..

Temperatures are on the right, with the years on the bottom. Dallas Hudson said he is most concerned about the erratic highs and lows from year to year, but would like additional data from prior to 1997.

I am starting my 25th year of phenology record keeping, and a few years back, I learned how to start plotting trends of my data and noticed that a lot of them were doing some weird things that didn’t go along with the current warming we were being told about.

Even more startling was plants going one direction and butterflies another, so I started working up our weather data to compare it and found that our data was actually showing cooling. At first, I thought, “This can’t be,” so I mentioned it to my boss. He asked, “You’re sure our data is good?” So he checked it against Hubbard County and Federal Dam. It showed the exact same thing.

When I looked at the first plot he showed me there was a big shift or jump in temperature from 1996 to 1998 and I said you sure they didn’t move a thermometer? So we looked at another and the same? Since then every weather data set I can find around the whole state shows this big shift than a cooling trend.

Now don’t start jumping to conclusions saying I’m a climate-change denier for I’m not. I believe this to be a cause of it. The driving force is the warm air going up the West Coast into the Arctic, which drives the cold down onto us, the polar vortex. When I broke it down month by month, it showed colder winters and slightly warmer summers with an overall cooling trend. The only reason I found this is my data starts in 1997, but this shift should be an excellent spot to look at how plants and critters reacted, but I have no data prior to 1997.

So does anybody else collect data of birds returning or first blooming of plants? Or know of someone who does or did? I'd love to see that data so I can see how this shift affected it. If anyone has notes prior to 1996 please contact me at dchudson@eot.com.


I have no idea how long this trend will last or if we’ll see another shift. But it’s something we should keep an eye on, especially by those blaming everything in Minnesota on warming temperatures.

At the moment, we are experiencing a very early spring – about two weeks or so ahead of normal. 2012 was still quite a bit earlier, but we’re on course to be in top three or four earliest springs.

I’m seeing lots of waterfowl, chipmunks, red-winged blackbirds, juncos and robins. Ruffed grouse are drumming steadily and woodcock are peenting. Soon, there will be frogs calling and ice going out of lakes and the return of the loons.

An outdoorsman all his life, Dallas Hudson grew up in Akeley. He tracks the birds, animals, insects, plants of northern Minnesota in his daily journals. Hudson shares his nature observations and photos with KAXE’s Season Watch, the Minnesota Phenology Network and the Park Rapids Enterprise. He works at an official field camp of the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) on Shingobee Lake, near Akeley.

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