NASA | Feeling the Sting of Climate Change

From NASA Explorer

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Uploaded by Essinova on November 4, 2009

NASA's Wayne Esaias sees honeybees as important data collectors to help us understand our changing climate.

Data from the network, when combined with additional data that reach back to the 1920’s, indicate that the timing of spring nectar flows have undergone extraordinary changes. "Each year, the nectar flow comes about a half-day earlier on average," said Esaias. "In total, since the 1970s, it has moved forward by about month in Maryland."

Esaias and Goddard colleague Robert Wolfe recently compared nectar flow data from HoneyBeeNet to satellite data that measures the annual "green up" of vegetation in the spring, one of the first times that scientists have attempted such a comparison. They corresponded nearly perfectly, confirming the usefulness of the citizen-science derived data from HoneyBeeNet to address changes in nectar flows.

What's to blame for the remarkable warming trend in Maryland? Washington's growth has certainly played a role. Urban areas, explained Esaias, produce a "heat island" effect that causes temperatures in surrounding areas to creep upward. But, in addition to that, Esaias suspects that climate change is also contributing.

And that has him nervous. "A month is a long time. If this keeps up, and the nectar flows continue to come earlier and earlier, there's a risk that pollinators could end up out of sync with the plant species that they've pollinated historically," Esaias said.

Tags: NASA, Goddard, Bees, Climate, Honeybees, Esaias, honeybeenet, global warming

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