Real Time Climate Change: Farm Diaries and Phenology in Prince Edward Island

(A guest article posted by Joshua MacFadyen on

It is 24 April, and although some Canadians have been mowing grass for weeks the spring plants on Prince Edward Island are only beginning to overcome the cold nights and occasional flurries that visit this island in April. Still, this is an early spring by historical accounts. On this day in 1879, John MacEachern recorded the following diary entry in Rice Point:

“Ice drifting out of Harbour and Nine Mile Creek, boats can get to Town now, a Ltr [boat] from East Point [arrived] back at Governors Island Tuesday.”

The day before he had recorded a similar view from the farm:

“pulverizing lea land today & yesterday, ice still unbroken outside harbour & inside St Peters Island.”

Thirteen years earlier the ice was more fluid, moving along the South Shore of the Island on 18-19 April until there was finally “no ice in sight” on the 23rd.  This did not mean winter had passed; MacEachern noted “frosty ground, hard all day,” on 24 April, and frost deep enough to prevent stumping and ploughing all that week.  Usually we think of historical weather reports and almanacs as about as exciting as reading the phone book, but diary entries like these reveal dramatic changes in our environment and our climate when we read them in real time.[click to continue…]

3 thoughts on “Real Time Climate Change: Farm Diaries and Phenology in Prince Edward Island

  1. We do indeed appear to be living in an eerily different climate and as to how much of it is man’s fault is anyone’s guess. Phenology is a deep interest of mine and if more folk were to undertake these observations, we would be much better off. Historical indicators are paramount here and when looking back on it, things seem to be changing rapidly. How will humanity cope in the future is open to question and the fact that nature itself is struggling to cope is a big enough reason for us to take action.

    A very interesting article there, well done.

    Best Wishes

    Tony Powell

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