For the past three or four years, I’ve been noticing drastic changes in our climate that can’t be explained by temporary freakish weather conditions or other passing factors. These are enduring, permanent changes that have affected the climate in the mountainous regions of North Carolina (Blue Ridge and Smoky Mountains) and have actually raised us up a notch on the Plant Hardiness Growing Map so that plants that were once not viable here (due to it being too cold) can now be grown. Soon I expect to start seeing palmetto trees!
Forgive the gallows humor, because it really is no joke.
In spite of occasional blasts of severe winter weather and single digit temperatures, for the most part, the past three or four winters have been extremely warm, some days so warm you can go without a jacket or sweater. I remember Christmas Day of 2015 was in the seventies. I’ve seen trees and flowers blooming as early as mid-February. I may live in the south, but it’s not the tropics or even the deep south. In normal years the winters have been consistently cold, though they don’t last very long, even here in the mountains, where it tends to be colder.
But even more noticeable than the higher temperatures and earlier springs (and later winters)is the rain. While climate change has made some parts of the country, such as California and much of the west, extremely dry and prone to drought and devastating wildfires, other places are getting an excess of rain (and severe storms). We are one of those places, and the rain often leads to flooding, something that until recently wasn’t that common here, or at least was confined to specific areas that everyone knew to avoid. Now it seems to be everywhere, and is affecting small farms in this area the most drastically. There’s an area of fairly flat land in Henderson County that I pass on most days. This is a valley area which is often used as farmland or grazing land. Now many of these farms and grazing areas seem to be almost permanently flooded, forming shallow lakes and ponds. The water never gets a chance to evaporate sufficiently before the next rainstorm comes along and causes even more flooding.
The rivers also seem unusually high. There are times certain roads have been closed off due to the rivers and streams overflowing their banks.
And the mud! While it tends to get muddy here every late winter and early spring, I’ve never seen anything quite like this. When you walk across the grass, you feel the ground give way beneath you like a soggy sponge. Trees have fallen because the ground is too soft to hold their roots in place. And all my shoes are ruined. This forested region is fast becoming very close to something resembling a wetland.
The speed of these changes is scary. Climate change is real. Anyone who tells you otherwise either isn’t paying attention or has bought into lies certain powerful politicians and CEOs are telling.