A Bovine Solution To Seasonal Forecasting

(the following has been translated and adapted from an article in Italian by Peppe Caridi of Meteoweb)

Yaks in South Tyrol
Yaks in South Tyrol

Is the European Summer coming to an abrupt end? That’s what looks like according to the yaks of South Tyrol, already back to their winter home in Solda having come down from the area around the “Città di Milano” mountain hut. According to local journalist Ezio Danieli that’s “an unequivocal sign that we are going to get cold and snow“.

For a bit of background, let’s take a step back to 26 years ago and the arrival in Solda, South Tyrol, Italy of several yaks, animals typical of the Himalayas. What happened is that during their 1983 climbing of the Cho Oyu (8,201m, 29,906ft), Reinhold Messner and Paul Hanny were helped by local cattle carrying materials to their base camp.

Messner and Hanny returned in 1985 and for the first time brought the herd of yaks to the “Città di Milano” mountain hut.. The animals remained there until the first snowfall, then returned by themselves down to the valley below, to their stables.

Since then, every Summer in early July Reinhold Messner and Paul Hanny accompany the group of Tibetan animals up to the Madriccio/Madritchspitze mountain,

Madritschspitze
Madritschspitze

surrounded by crowds of tourists and onlookers from around the world. Up the Ortles/Ortler ramps, Messner leads the herd of yaks (see at the bottom of this link the photos by Bruno Pileggi) to a spectacular alpine transhumance that ends spontaneously, every year between late August and early September when, with the arrival of the first cold and the first snow, the cattle return to the valley on their own.

This year they have returned before mid-August, and that had never happened so early since 1985! After all in the past weeks there hasn’t been much warm and heat up there, and besides the cool temperatures, thunderstorms are occurring almost on a daily basis.

Messner too is surprised by the behavior of the animals: “Normally, the descent to the valley means that their season up in the mountains is over and winter is coming, or at least the first snowfalls of the Autumn. It must be said however that at the foot of the Madriccio mountain, as I have personally verified in the past few days, the grass is still plenty even if the cold has arrived alongside the first snowflakes. Anyways, the “signal” is clear, let’s see what will happen in the coming days“.

Alpine Melt Reveals…There's Nothing Special About Today's Climate

An interesting piece of news from the BBC that screams out very loud “there is nothing special about today’s climate“.

Yet, it’s all to be read between the lines, as the “greenhouse gases” are taken as the current warming’s culprit as a matter of course (i.e. without thinking).

Basically, alpine archeologists are having a field day (ha! ha!) with retreating glaciers exposing very, very ancient human artifacts. It should go without saying that if humans were up there at a time when gore-tex had not been invented and mountaineering superstores were not around, it must have been considerably warm. Also, everything buried under a glacier must have been there before the glacier trundled by.

So it must have been warm around 3,300BC and 4,500BC. How about the rest of the time? I have found this graph online. Once again, it’s in Italian, but should not be difficult to decypher. It shows how temperatures have changed in the Western Alps during the last 11,000 years (Western Swiss Alps, I understand, as the graph is supposed to be from the University in Berne):

Western Alps temperatures during the last 11,000 years
Western Alps temperatures during the last 11,000 years
Quick analysis:
  • Present temperatures are relatively high compared to the past
  • The 16C threshold has been touched, for the 5th time in 10,000 years
  • It’s the 7th time that temperatures are on the way up, even without considering the increase immediately following the last Ice Age

Furthermore: whoever put that arrow shooting skywards, must be a comedian (or an involuntary comedian). Climatechangeology is a naked science indeed.

Ever Heard of Cretinism?

Graham Robb’s dreams about French villagers sleeping their ways through winter in extraordinarily unhealthy bovine and swine company could perhaps be disregarded as idle fantasies. (“Why work when you can hibernate?“, IHT, Nov 26)

Actually, it’s worse than that.

Has Mr Robb ever heard of “Alpine cretinism“, a condition that made people lose muscle tone and co-ordination, restricted their height and greatly impeded their cognitive development?

“Alpine cretinism”, as the name implies, was endemic in much of the Alps until very recently, when diets finally became rich in iodine.

Rather than practicethe forgotten art of doing nothing at all for months on end“, those people may have been literally unable to do anything else.

Are there “lessons to be learned from those hibernating ancestors“? Well, there is one: get your recommended dose of iodine, daily.