Giant Arctic Mosquitoes!

A number of media outlets picked up a story recently about increasing swarms of giant mosquitoes endangering caribou and blotting out the Arctic Sun. Evidently this all came from a research report that stated the obvious, a longer, warmer summer would lead to a longer mosquito season in the Arctic. Having lived in Alaska, I can verify that the mosquitoes there are huge and their swarms can almost blot out the Sun, or at least it seems that way if you are getting bit. The problem here is that there is no evidence that there are more or larger mosquitoes emerging from the tundra of the north lands. This is yet another case of airhead news writers misunderstanding the facts or twisting them to fit their desired narrative.

ABC, that paragon of climate propaganda, put out the headline: “See the Giant Arctic Mosquitoes That Are Thriving in a Changing Climate.” Their story was filled with dire warnings from researchers, warnings about the invasion of the giant mosquitoes. It sounds like climate change is leading to flying behemoths, roaming the Arctic searching for people and animals to drain of blood. Buzzing insect vampires laying waste to all they come across.

“They absolutely will bite people,” lead author Lauren Culler reportedly told ABC News. “They’re active at any time of day. If you’re in the Arctic in the middle of mosquito season, there are hundreds of mosquitoes [that want] a blood meal. [They] can drive a person mad. It can probably drive a caribou mad, too.” They certainly drove the warmist media into a frenzy.

Then the intrepid eco-journalist penning the article, Gillian Mohney, takes a speculative leap, connecting dots that should not be connected. “As the climate changes, scientists have warned it's not just Arctic caribou that are in trouble,” she wrote. “In California, experts said the historic drought likely led to a record-breaking number of deaths from West Nile Virus spread by mosquitoes.”

Note that even NOAA admits that the California drought is not a result of climate change. “The severe drought in California over the last 3 years (2011-14) is primarily due to natural climate variability, key features of which appear to be predictable from knowledge of how California precipitation reacts to tropical ocean temperatures,” their report on the drought states. Also, Arctic mosquitoes are not primary vectors for disease. In other words, the author just added an unwarranted fear of mosquito born disease to a story where it does not belong.

Another thing she buried in the report is that norther mosquitoes, Aedes nigripes, are naturally bigger than their southern counterparts (see picture). Any one who has spent time in the Arctic during the summer can attest to the size and aggressiveness of the mosquitoes there. The pests emerge in late June or early July, when males form swarms, called leks, to attract the females. The females are the ones who seek animal blood to produce larger clutches of eggs. At the end of the summer they lay only one clutch of eggs.

The eggs do not hatch until the summer Sun warms the tundra and water forms pools. That's right, there must be melting for these flying blood suckers to hatch. If the thaw doesn't come the following summer the eggs can remain viable for several years. What this means is, like many forms of arctic life, when the conditions are right A nigripes bursts into life. When they emerge they are in a frenzy to mate, feed, and lay the next generation's eggs when things get warm enough. A warm summer will naturally lead to large swarms of mosquitoes, cold ones and the pests bide their time.

Moreover, the abundance of mosquitoes in any given summer is directly determined by precipitation during the preceding winter and summer. According to Alex Huryn and John Hobbie in Land of Extremes: A Natural History of the Arctic North Slope of Alaska: “In a nutshell, a winter with heavy snow followed by a wet summer will likely produce a bumper crop of mosquitoes the next summer.” So this year's swarm of mosquitoes was quite expected.

The underlying report did not say that climate change was causing abnormal swarms of mosquitoes in the Arctic today. Even some of the green media reported the correct conclusion of the hypothetical study: “The survival rates for Arctic mosquitoes will increase by more than 50 percent with a 2°C temperature rise in the region.” That's right, the new research is speculative at best, based on a hypothetical rise in Arctic temperatures. Here is the abstract of the actual paper:

Climate change is altering environmental temperature, a factor that influences ectothermic organisms by controlling rates of physiological processes. Demographic effects of warming, however, are determined by the expression of these physiological effects through predator–prey and other species interactions. Using field observations and controlled experiments, we measured how increasing temperatures in the Arctic affected development rates and mortality rates (from predation) of immature Arctic mosquitoes in western Greenland. We then developed and parametrized a demographic model to evaluate how temperature affects survival of mosquitoes from the immature to the adult stage. Our studies showed that warming increased development rate of immature mosquitoes (Q10 = 2.8) but also increased daily mortality from increased predation rates by a dytiscid beetle (Q10 = 1.2–1.5). Despite increased daily mortality, the model indicated that faster development and fewer days exposed to predators resulted in an increased probability of mosquito survival to the adult stage. Warming also advanced mosquito phenology, bringing mosquitoes into phenological synchrony with caribou. Increases in biting pests will have negative consequences for caribou and their role as a subsistence resource for local communities. Generalizable frameworks that account for multiple effects of temperature are needed to understand how climate change impacts coupled human–natural systems.

The beginning sentence is the expected obeisance to current climate change dogma and is meaningless. What is important is that the researchers took some field readings over of a short period of time and then genned up a computer model. The samples were taken in a limited area, “in the tundra ecosystem located between the town of Kangerlussuaq, Greenland (67°0′33.1″ N, 50°41′19.1″ W) and the margin of the Greenland Ice Sheet.” The samples taken were from “four ponds every 2–4 days from 24 May–20 June in 2011 and 8 May–12 June in 2012.” One area, four lakes, and two summers, then on to the computer model. It is the ouotput of the computer model that they have reported and that have been conflated in the press with an outbreak of giant mosquitoes in the Arctic.

In short, this is a non-story, pumped up by the climate alarmist fellow travelers in the media. Advocates not journalists, who seize on every possible link between perceived bad events and climate change, no matter how tenuous. So farcical was this inflated story that the satirical site The Onion ran with the story as a man-in-the-street interview piece.

“This will undoubtedly put even more pressure on our depleting citronella reserves,” said one interviewee. “On the plus side, these bugs sound like they’re big enough to shoot,” said another. You get the idea. Clearly this story is a desperate attempt to hype the scary results of nonexistent global warming. Here is a hint for the alarmist media, you can't yell “climate doom” for 30 years, have nothing disastrous happen, and expect to retain a shred of credibility.

Be safe, enjoy the interglacial and stay skeptical.