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Environment & Science

#ISeeChange - Milton Love, tropical fish, and global warming




Milton Love at Stearns Wharf in Santa Barbara.
Milton Love at Stearns Wharf in Santa Barbara.
John Rabe

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Milton Love is Off-Ramp's resident marine biologist. From his post at UC Santa Barbara, he's told us about the love lives of fishes, the ugliest fish in the Pacific, and how the video game Survive! Mola Mola is, on the whole, a good thing.

Today he turns his expertise to our project, #ISeeChange, which tries to help people who are trying to figure out global warming, and if the things they're seeing around them — like the Great California Drought or early-blooming jacarandas — are evidence of climate change.

"This last year," Love says, "the ocean has been relatively warm, and there have been a lot of subtropical and even tropical fishes that we now see in California ... in one case, for the very first time. So, the first impulse is to say, 'There it is! Global warming!'"

"But go back into the historical records," Love says. "In about 1855, the U.S. Army came out and started doing early surveys off California. The icthyologist who was with them caught some tropical fish in Monterey that have never been caught since in California. So is that global warming? Well, probably not. The ocean off California goes through cycles. Sometimes it's warm, sometimes it's cold. So it's very hard to fractionate the warm/cold cycles from something bigger and grander."

This doesn't prove or disprove global warming. It just means that new tropical fish don't prove or disprove it.

#ISeeChange is a national effort to track how climate change is affecting our daily lives. 

Notice any bugs in your backyard lately? Wondering why you're seeing coyotes where you don't expect? Seen changes in your favorite tide pool? Snap a picture and tag it @KPCC and #ISeeChange on Twitter or Instagram, let us know through our Public Insight Network, or post your questions on www.iSeeChange.org. Then see what others have found and observed in their environment.