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Desert Diary
Climate/Early Birds


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We've known for some time that, on a worldwide basis, temperatures have been rising. Yet, it's always difficult to be sure whether a particular event is due to such a rise or due to some other, cryptic cause. Recently, we've gotten a rather clear message that at least some biological changes seem to be tied directly to temperature increases. Unfortunately, the study isn't on the Chihuahuan Desert, but those of you who faithfully record the appearances of migratory birds might take notice.

The study depended on data collected since 1909 from Helgoland, an island in the southeastern North Sea. Birds breeding in Scandinavia and wintering in continental Europe or in Africa have been trapped and marked each year. The result of the massive information is assurance that the 23 species involved make their northward migration earlier than in the past—from 2 to 12 days earlier. Inspired? Get out your desert journals and go to work.
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Contributor: Arthur H. Harris, Laboratory for Environmental Biology, Centennial Museum, University of Texas at El Paso.

Desert Diary is a joint production of the Centennial Museum and KTEP National Public Radio at the University of Texas at El Paso.