This Man Has Been Quietly Collecting Invaluable Climate Data for More Than 40 Years
billy barr of Gothic, Colorado wears a lot of hats—literally and figuratively.
Sure, the reclusive mountain man (who prefers his name spelled in lowercase) has an impressive hat collection, but he's also a legendary citizen scientist who has been collecting a trove of invaluable data from his remote home in the Colorado Rockies for more than four decades.
The 66-year-old "Snow Guardian" has logged notebooks full of snow levels, temperatures and animal migration observations every day since 1974, providing a critical look at the area's long-term environmental and climate change trends.
barr's fascinating story was featured in a January 2017 short film from Day's Edge Productions, showing how the Bollywood-loving, cricket enthusiast with a great beard meticulously records his observations from his fully solar-powered cabin deep in the woods.
In the clip, barr amusingly recalls why he started collecting weather data.
"I lived in an 8-by-10 foot old shack. I had no electricity and no water and I had nothing," he says. "I was just there all day. The main thing I interacted with was the weather and the animals, so I started recording things just cause it was something to do."
But as CBS News reported, when barr first started collecting data, he had no idea how important his work would be:
In the early '90s, scientist David Inouye from the neighboring Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory needed data for his research on wildflowers. He had heard about Barr's notebooks, but was shocked when he saw how comprehensive they were.
"I said, 'Billy! You know those data are really relevant to how the climate is changing, and how animals are responding to the changing climate," Inouye said.
To which barr remarked, "I wasn't out to prove anything. I just recorded the numbers."
Ominously, barr's records show clear evidence of a changing climate.
"The trend I see is that we're getting permanent snow pack later, and we get to bare ground sooner. We'll have years where there was a lot of snow on the ground, and then we lose snow sooner than years that had a lot less snow just because it's a lot warmer now," he says in the Day's Edge video.
During a typical winter, it's normal to have four or five record-high temperatures. However, as barr recently stressed to National Geographic: "We have 67 record highs in the last three winters alone, and 48 percent of our record highs have been just since 2010."
"That's in 44 years of records. And 47 percent of my record lows are from the first ten years I did this," he said. "These are trends."
- Redwoods are the world's tallest trees.
- Now scientists have discovered they are even bigger than we thought.
- Using laser technology they map the 80-meter giants.
- Trees are a key plank in the fight against climate change.
They are among the largest trees in the world, descendants of forests where dinosaurs roamed.
Pixabay / Simi Luft<p><span>Until recently, measuring these trees meant scaling their 80 meter high trunks with a tape measure. Now, a team of scientists from University College London and the University of Maryland uses advanced laser scanning, to create 3D maps and calculate the total mass.</span></p><p>The results are striking: suggesting the trees <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-020-73733-6" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">may be as much as 30% larger than earlier measurements suggested.</a> Part of that could be due to the additional trunks the Redwoods can grow as they age, <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-020-73733-6" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">a process known as reiteration</a>.</p>
New 3D measurements of large redwood trees for biomass and structure. Nature / UCL<p>Measuring the trees more accurately is important because carbon capture will probably play a key role in the battle against climate change. Forest <a href="https://www.wri.org/blog/2020/09/carbon-sequestration-natural-forest-regrowth" target="_blank">growth could absorb billions of tons</a> of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere each year.</p><p>"The importance of big trees is widely-recognised in terms of carbon storage, demographics and impact on their surrounding ecosystems," the authors wrote<a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-020-73733-6" target="_blank"> in the journal Nature</a>. "Unfortunately the importance of big trees is in direct proportion to the difficulty of measuring them."</p><p>Redwoods are so long lived because of their ability to <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-020-73733-6" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">cope with climate change, resist disease and even survive fire damage</a>, the scientists say. Almost a fifth of their volume may be bark, which helps protect them.</p>
Carbon Capture Champions<p><span>Earlier research by scientists at Humboldt University and the University of Washington found that </span><a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0378112716302584" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Redwood forests store almost 2,600 tonnes of carbon per hectare</a><span>, their bark alone containing more carbon than any other neighboring species.</span></p><p>While the importance of trees in fighting climate change is widely accepted, not all species enjoy the same protection as California's coastal Redwoods. In 2019 the world lost the equivalent of <a href="https://www.worldwildlife.org/threats/deforestation-and-forest-degradation" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">30 soccer fields of forest cover every minute</a>, due to agricultural expansion, logging and fires, according to The Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF).</p>
Pixabay<p>Although <a href="https://c402277.ssl.cf1.rackcdn.com/publications/1420/files/original/Deforestation_fronts_-_drivers_and_responses_in_a_changing_world_-_full_report_%281%29.pdf?1610810475" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">the rate of loss is reported to have slowed in recent years</a>, reforesting the world to help stem climate change is a massive task.</p><p><span>That's why the World Economic Forum launched the Trillion Trees Challenge (</span><a href="https://www.1t.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">1t.org</a><span>) and is engaging organizations and individuals across the globe through its </span><a href="https://uplink.weforum.org/uplink/s/uplink-issue/a002o00000vOf09AAC/trillion-trees" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Uplink innovation crowdsourcing platform</a><span> to support the project.</span></p><p>That's backed up by research led by ETH Zurich/Crowther Lab showing there's potential to restore tree coverage across 2.2 billion acres of degraded land.</p><p>"Forests are critical to the health of the planet," according to <a href="https://www.1t.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">1t.org</a>. "They sequester carbon, regulate global temperatures and freshwater flows, recharge groundwater, anchor fertile soil and act as flood barriers."</p><p><em data-redactor-tag="em" data-verified="redactor">Reposted with permission from the </em><span><em data-redactor-tag="em" data-verified="redactor"><a href="https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2021/03/redwoods-store-more-co2-and-are-more-enormous-than-we-thought/" target="_blank">World Economic Forum</a>.</em></span></p>
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