Need more evidence that the world is getting really weird? Trees on the East Coast of the U.S. might be migrating west.

Songlin Fei, an ecologist at Purdue University, compared U.S. Forest Service data on tree ranges from 1980-1995 against more recent data from 2013-2015. According to the study published in the journal Science Advances, trees on the East Coast might be shifting their ranges westward right underneath our noses.

Nearly half of the tree species they examined were making a break for it.

Of the 86 different tree species, 47% had a significant westward shift, including quaking aspens, several types of oak, and plum and cherry trees.


The trees weren't physically moving, of course. Nor were they necessarily disappearing in the east. Instead, the trees, especially saplings, were spreading more along the species' western edges.

So why are the trees moving? Fei's team thinks they're following the water. Over the past century, the southeast has gotten drier while the Midwest and Great Lakes have gotten wetter. The trees are simply responding to that.

Here's the bottom line: Climate change is going to make all living things move. And we've got to be ready for it.

Climate change affects rainfall and weather patterns, not just temperature. Many different species are being forced into new ranges — and not just endangered beetles. The ranges of common backyard birds and even foods like maple syrup might change.

This latest data is no reason to panic. The median rate westward is only about a mile a year (which is still pretty fast for trees). But this is a great reminder that as our planet changes, nature's going to respond in unexpected ways. We better strap ourselves in.

I live in Washington, the state with the first official outbreak of COVID-19 in the U.S. While my family lives several hours from Seattle, it was alarming to be near the epicenter—especially early in the pandemic when we knew even less about the coronavirus than we know now.

As tracking websites went up and statistics started pouring in, things looked hairy for Washington. But not for long. We could have and should have shut everything down faster than we did, but Governor Inslee took the necessary steps to keep the virus from flying completely out of control. He's consistently gotten heat from all sides, but in general he listened to the infectious disease experts and followed the lead of public health officials—which is exactly what government needs to do in a pandemic.

As a result, we've spent the past several months watching Washington state drop from the #1 hotspot down to 23rd in the nation (as of today) for total coronavirus cases. In cases per million population, we're faring even better at number 38. We have a few counties where outbreaks are pretty bad, and cases have slowly started to rise as the state has reopened—which was to be expected—but I've felt quite satisfied with how it's been handled at the state level. The combination of strong state leadership and county-by-county reopenings has born statistically impressive results—especially considering the fact that we didn't have the lead time that other states did to prepare for the outbreak.

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