A New Sign of Global Warming: Owl Colors

Maybe you don't believe in charts or graphs or studies. How about owls?

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It must be said, though not necessarily endorsed, that there are those who question climate change. Despite the summers which have been quite warm, the winters that have been curiously cold and mercurial, the increase in strange natural disasters across the globe (was that a tornado in Brooklyn?) the graphs plotting average global temperature over the last century or so that look like the profit charts for the most ambitious investment bank, there are those who have their own research and data to suggest global warming is not really happening.

The BBC today has a much simpler example of how global warming is not only apparent, but visible to the naked, unscientifically-inclined eye: tawny owls are turning brown as a result of a warming climate, according to scientists in Finland. A study carried out over thirty years and published recently in the journal Nature Communications showed that while grey tawny owls had higher survival rates in colder environments, brown owls were becoming more common. Dr. Patrik Karell from the University of Helsink, the leader of the journal study, tells the BBC that they've gone from around 30 percent of the tawny population in Finland to around 50 percent, despite the fact that the grey color trait is the dominant gene when mixed.

The brown owl's "survival has improved as winters have become warmer," says the Dr. Karell, as quoted in the BBC. "...climate-driven selection has led to an evolutionary change in the population."

Somebody probably has a counter-chart that shows the opposite. But do they have a counter owl?

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.