Climate Cast: “Rampant lobster cannibalism” as species adapt to climate change?

Every Thursday MPR meteorologist Paul Huttner joins Kerri Miller on The Daily Circuit for "Climate Cast" on MPR News Stations to talk about the latest research on our changing climate and the consequences that we're seeing here in Minnesota and worldwide.


These days it seems like we are witnessing climate changes unfold right before our very eyes.

It's not our imagination.

The nature of our seasons is changing. Spring blooms come earlier. Summer is more humid with a documented increase in extreme localized flash flood events -- and more frequent droughts. Fall lingers longer. Lakes freeze up later. Winters are trending shorter and noticeably, measurably milder. New plants are able to thrive in Minnesota's milder climate.

We're all living witnesses to rapid climate changes in our lifetime. This is no longer your grandparents "Minnesota" or Planet Earth.

Before you keep reading ...

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In 2013 at MPR we're devoting more coverage to the science behind and the growing effects of our changing climate in Minnesota and around the globe.

You can hear me discuss the week's top climate stories, and get perspective from climate experts in our new "Climate Cast" every Thursday morning at 9:50 a.m. with Kerri Miller on The Daily Circuit.

Climate Cast for August 1st, 2013

It's like a bad 1950's B-rate horror movie.  "Attack of the Cannibal Lobsters."

Lobster cannibalism is not totally new, and it may or may not be a sign of climate change. But the shift in the range of east coast lobsters is likely a result of warmer ocean waters to the south. Lobsters are disappearing from Long Island sound, and migrating north like many other species. The result is a boom in Maine lobster population. That's good for those of us who like the tasty crustaceans at a low price, but not so good for lobster fishermen trying to earn a living wage.

Here's the audio of this week's Climate Cast with Paul Huttner & Kerri Miller.

Species are not evolving fast enough to cope with climate change, according to a new study from the University of Arizona in Tucson.

In the past, most species have been able to adapt to changes of less than 1° C over 1 million years, but the planet is warming much faster than that now. Scientists predict the earth to warm by 4° C by 2100.

One example of a species being thrust into unfamiliar territory is the case of the cannibalistic lobsters.

Thanks to warming waters and overfishing of their predators, an explosion of the lobster population has led to younger lobsters being eaten by older ones.

Lobster cannibalism usually only occurs in captivity (which is why the lobsters you see in tanks have rubber bands on their claws), but now it's occurring in the wild.

"Water temperatures on the Gulf of Maine have increased significantly over the last 10-20 years, and this has both increased the fecundity and the growth rates of lobsters. And it has forced [their predators] offshore, away from the areas where juvenile lobsters settle and grow," said Noah Oppenheim, University of Maine researcher. "These two factors have combined to produce higher population abundance in the Gulf of Maine than ever before. When you have more lobsters encountering each other, we have found that cannibalism is the shocking and dramatic result."

Can species keep up as they adapt to the rapid pace of climate changes?

Some species can adapt to climate changes more easily than others. A new study from the University of Arizona says many may not be able to keep pace as temperature and rainfall patterns change.

CC speices adapatation
The top map shows velocity of climate change estimates based on the new Science study. The bottom map shows velocity of climate change based on previous estimates. Note the two maps use different scales. Credit: Diffenbaugh and Field, 2013

Brian Kahn has more on the story from Climate Central.

Over the next century, plants and animals on land might be in for a wild and ultimately devastating ride. Warming temperatures, changing precipitation patterns, and extreme weather and climate events are likely to increase at a rate and magnitude not seen in more than 65 million years, according to a new study published Thursday in the journal Science.

Couple that with other human-related ecosystem disruptions, from highways to deforestation to pollution, and some species could find themselves pushed to the top of the mountain or the tip of a continent with no suitable habitat left in which to move.

Global average surface temperatures have risen about twice as fast over land during the past century as they have over the ocean, a trend likely to continue into the next century. Based on the current emissions trajectory, temperatures are projected to rise by as much as 9°F over much of the Earth’s land, the study found. The last time the Earth warmed that much was around 55 million years ago. Only the cooling that caused the extinction of the dinosaurs tops the magnitude of change over the past 65 million years.

“The key difference is the rate of change,” said co-author Noah Diffenbaugh, a climate scientist and Senior Fellow at the Woods Institute for the Environment at Stanford University, in an interview. “The combination of rate and magnitude over the next century is unprecedented. In the context of the geological record of the last 65 million years, this (change in the 21st century) is likely to be an order of magnitude, or two or three orders, more rapid.”


Climate Change Mitigation: What you can do

Let's fact it, Climate Change can seem like an overwhelming problem with few easy solutions.

Many of you have asked what you can do in your lives to combat and mitigate the impacts of climate change.

Here are some great resources from NASA and EPA.

NASA: Resources on Climate Change mitigation

EPA: What you can do about Climate Change

EPA: Regional impacts of Climate Change

Climate Cast resources:

Want to know more about climate change? Here are few quick links to credible climate change sources.

-Read the Minnesota Public Radio primer on Climate Change

-NOAA NCDC's "State of the Climate" report

-AMS Statement on Climate Change

-NASA key evidence of climate change

-Great summary of Modern Day Climate Change from SUNY-Suffolk

-Minnesota Climate Working Group climate change resources

-Mark Seeley's Weather Talk

-Common climate change myths

-Climate change in the news from Climate Central

-More coverage from The Yale Forum on Climate Change and Media

Paul Huttner