Heat-Resistant Chickens and Climate Change

Sierra Rayne
According to the Guardian:

"American scientists are racing to develop chickens that can cope with scorching heat as part of a series of government-funded programmes looking to adapt to or mitigate the effects of extreme weather patterns on the food supply.

A University of Delaware project is developing ways to introduce climate hardiness to the US domestic breed stock before summer heatwaves predicted under climate change models kill or spoil the meat of billions of birds."

The need to produce a "heat-resistant chicken" is apparently dire, since "by 2060, US climate agencies predict, there will be 12 times as many 100F (37.7C) days in Delaware and Maryland, where poultry farmers produce 600 million birds a year."

So there will be 12 times as many 100ºF days in Delaware and Maryland by 2060? Bold claim. Let's see if current trends are headed in that direction.

Well, here are the number of days at or above 100ºF in the Wilmington, Delaware climate sub-region since records began in 1917.

There is certainly no increasing trend towards climate change induced poultry-geddon. If anything, the trend is headed downwards.

In the Baltimore climate sub-region, there has been no significant trend in the number of 100ºF days per year since 1900. The record is 7 days/year, shared by 1930, 1988, and 2010. At Washington, D.C., there has been no significant trend since at least 1920, and the record number of 100ºF days was set in 1930 at 11. The closest they have come to this high point since 1930 was 8 days in 2012, and the trend since 1980 is massively non-significant.

In Frostburg, MD, there has never been a day ≥100ºF since records began in 1972. Nearby in Cumberland, there is no sign of an increasing trend since their records began in 1976. Indeed, 12 of the last 19 years have had exactly zero 100ºF days, with only one day in 2013. Over in Damascus, records begin in 1993, and since that time they have had exactly one 100ºF day over the past two decades, and it occurred in July 2011. Absolutely no trend here either.

South of D.C. in Mechanicsville, MD, continuous records don't begin until 1985. Mechanicsville has seen three 100ºF days since 1985: two in July 1988 and one in July 1991. Not a single 100ºF day since July 1991. That is 273 straight months without a 100ºF day and counting.

No significant trend over the past 20 years at Salisbury, MD. A spotty climate record at Greenwood, DE, that lasts only from 1986 to 2010, but over this timeframe there was only one 100ºF day in each of 1987, 1988, 1995, 2002, and 2007, and no 100ºF days in any of the other years. Ergo, another no trend site. At the Newark University Farm site in Delaware, the historical dataset is terrible, and continuous records effectively end in 2000 after an extremely spotty history before that. Nothing useful can be derived from this site.

I cannot find any evidence in the historical and recent climate datasets that suggest there will be 12 times as many 100ºF days in Delaware and Maryland by 2060. Sure, the climate models may be predicting this apocalypse, but if there are no recent trends -- and in some cases, no trends heading back  a century or more -- perhaps this should raise some questions among the modelers? It certainly should raise questions among the policymakers acting on the modeling predictions.

According to the Guardian:

"American scientists are racing to develop chickens that can cope with scorching heat as part of a series of government-funded programmes looking to adapt to or mitigate the effects of extreme weather patterns on the food supply.

A University of Delaware project is developing ways to introduce climate hardiness to the US domestic breed stock before summer heatwaves predicted under climate change models kill or spoil the meat of billions of birds."

The need to produce a "heat-resistant chicken" is apparently dire, since "by 2060, US climate agencies predict, there will be 12 times as many 100F (37.7C) days in Delaware and Maryland, where poultry farmers produce 600 million birds a year."

So there will be 12 times as many 100ºF days in Delaware and Maryland by 2060? Bold claim. Let's see if current trends are headed in that direction.

Well, here are the number of days at or above 100ºF in the Wilmington, Delaware climate sub-region since records began in 1917.

There is certainly no increasing trend towards climate change induced poultry-geddon. If anything, the trend is headed downwards.

In the Baltimore climate sub-region, there has been no significant trend in the number of 100ºF days per year since 1900. The record is 7 days/year, shared by 1930, 1988, and 2010. At Washington, D.C., there has been no significant trend since at least 1920, and the record number of 100ºF days was set in 1930 at 11. The closest they have come to this high point since 1930 was 8 days in 2012, and the trend since 1980 is massively non-significant.

In Frostburg, MD, there has never been a day ≥100ºF since records began in 1972. Nearby in Cumberland, there is no sign of an increasing trend since their records began in 1976. Indeed, 12 of the last 19 years have had exactly zero 100ºF days, with only one day in 2013. Over in Damascus, records begin in 1993, and since that time they have had exactly one 100ºF day over the past two decades, and it occurred in July 2011. Absolutely no trend here either.

South of D.C. in Mechanicsville, MD, continuous records don't begin until 1985. Mechanicsville has seen three 100ºF days since 1985: two in July 1988 and one in July 1991. Not a single 100ºF day since July 1991. That is 273 straight months without a 100ºF day and counting.

No significant trend over the past 20 years at Salisbury, MD. A spotty climate record at Greenwood, DE, that lasts only from 1986 to 2010, but over this timeframe there was only one 100ºF day in each of 1987, 1988, 1995, 2002, and 2007, and no 100ºF days in any of the other years. Ergo, another no trend site. At the Newark University Farm site in Delaware, the historical dataset is terrible, and continuous records effectively end in 2000 after an extremely spotty history before that. Nothing useful can be derived from this site.

I cannot find any evidence in the historical and recent climate datasets that suggest there will be 12 times as many 100ºF days in Delaware and Maryland by 2060. Sure, the climate models may be predicting this apocalypse, but if there are no recent trends -- and in some cases, no trends heading back  a century or more -- perhaps this should raise some questions among the modelers? It certainly should raise questions among the policymakers acting on the modeling predictions.