The Name is a Clue

This is one of those news stories that just make you laugh. The Associated Press reports that the snowy owl, native to the far north, has been moving south:


The showy white owls of “Harry Potter” fame are spotted in small numbers in upstate New York and other northern states every winter. This year, they’ve also been spotted farther south, in states where they’re rarely seen.

In Tennessee, birders armed with spotting scopes and telephoto lenses scrambled from as far away as Georgia and Alabama to see the first snowy owl reported in that state in 22 years. …

Rarely seen south of northern Ohio, snowy owls have also been reported this year in Kansas and Missouri….

Now, snowy owls like cold weather. They are white in order to blend in with snow:

Snowy owls nest on the ground in the Arctic tundra and many of them stay there year-round, while some winter in Canada and the northern United States.

So, why might they be moving south these days? Obviously, because the weather has been getting colder. Global temperatures peaked a decade ago, and this year has seen snow and cold temperatures dipping into the southern states. Here is another story the AP reported on today:

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) – Well over a million people shivered in ice-bound homes across the country Wednesday, waiting for warmer weather and for utility crews to restring power lines brought down by a storm that killed 23 as it took a snowy, icy journey from the Southern Plains to the East Coast. But with temperatures plunging, utility officials warned that it could be mid-February before electricity is restored to some of the hardest-hit places. The worst of the power failures were in Kentucky, Arkansas and Ohio.

But this simple explanation–snowy owls are following cold weather and snow southward–escapes the Associated Press. To the AP, the owl’s behavior is a mystery. Maybe a shortage of lemmings is driving the owls south? But no! The lemming population is thriving. That being the case, it’s an insoluble puzzle. The obvious explanation, cold weather, is unmentionable.

What’s doubly absurd about this is that when species have moved North, the AP and other news outlets have robotically attributed the migration to global warming. Like moths, opossums, and various flora and fauna.

In 1974, when armadillos were moving southward, Time magazine saw a “telltale sign” of global cooling that threatened the survival of humankind. But that was then, and this is now. The media are trying to sell global warming rather than global cooling these days, so if a cold-loving animal packs up and moves south, it can only be a mystery.

UPDATE: Heh. Jules Crittenden observes the same phenomenon in Massachusetts: ivory gulls moving down from Newfoundland. A Texan arrives in Massachusetts for a “once in a lifetime” opportunity to see them. “Either that,” Jules says, “or if it keeps cooling off, he can see them in Texas.”

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