After years of hearing about climate change affecting distant alpine wildflowers and polar bears, Dr. Richard Primack of Boston University decided to search for evidence of climate change closer to home. When alerted to the fact that Thoreau had kept detailed records of natural phenomena in Concord, Dr. Primack and his team set out to continue Thoreau’s work and discover how a warming climate had changed the timing of seasonal life cycle events of Concord’s woods. For more information on Dr. Primack’s work, read his latest book, Walden Warming: Climate Change Comes to Thoreau’s Woods.
By comparing their own observations of natural events to those of Thoreau and other Concord naturalists who followed in Thoreau’s footsteps and recorded Concord’s environment so carefully, the Primack Lab scientists have been able to measure how seasonal events like plant flowering and leafing times, migratory bird arrival, and butterfly emergence are advancing with warming temperatures and changing over time.
There is overwhelming evidence that as the climate warms, spring is coming earlier to Concord. Concord has emerged as a living laboratory for climate change research and is regularly featured in newspapers, magazines, websites, and textbooks as one of the clearest examples in the world of the ecological effects of climate change—all building on the legacy of Thoreau.
Explore the Primack Lab at Boston University.
Listen to Richard Primack discuss “Understanding Climate Change, With Help from Thoreau” on NPR’s Morning Edition, January 17, 2013.
Listen to the sounds of summer that one might hear at Walden Pond.
Background photo credit: Cherrie Corey
Photo/film/audio credits: Photo courtesy Abe Miller-Rushing; Six One Seven Studios; Kezia Simister