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Climate change increases chance of dragons

Be warned. Don’t write this off as the usual exaggerated hype from Nature.

Zoology: Here be dragons

Emerging evidence indicates that dragons can no longer be dismissed as creatures of legend and fantasy, and that anthropogenic effects on the world’s climate may inadvertently be paving the way for the resurgence of these beasts.

Figure 2: The rise and fall and rise again of dragons. The relative frequency of ‘dragons’ in fictional literature (thick red line), as determined as a unigram probability4, with two historical reconstructions of Northern Hemisphere temperature (decadal smoothing) shown in blue5 and purple6. Global temperatures have been measured since 1855 (thick black line5). Temperature anomalies represent deviations from the 1961–90 reference period. The rising incidence of dragons in the literature correlates with rising temperatures, and suggests that these fire-breathing lizards are being sighted more frequently. As a result, the large-scale ‘Third Stir’ is deemed to be imminent.

Ominous signs are there:

Further work has revealed that the early medieval period was a veritable paradise for dragons. This can be attributed to the period’s unusually warm temperatures (Fig. 2) and an abundance of knights, the beasts’ favourite combatant and food. It was also a time when wealth and status were measured in terms of gold and silver — the preferred nesting material for Western dragons.

So dragons forage for knights, and nest in gold and silver. The Nature researchers don’t even mention the rising price of gold and silver nor the volume of trades. Now that’s a hockeystick.

Australia gets the blame again:

Sluggish action on global warming is set to compound the problem, and policies such as the restoration of knighthoods in Australia are likely to exacerbate the predicament yet further by providing a sustained and delicious food supply. It is now only a matter of time before The Third Stir takes place, and this, to borrow a phrase from Godfrey of Exmouth, will be the “bigge one”.

USA Today reports one of the authors is expecting attacks from skeptics:

Some skeptics continue to deride the notion of human-induced climate change, “so we will not at all be
surprised that our finding that this climate phenomenon will see a burgeoning of fire-breathing dragons is
treated with extreme suspicion, if not contempt, scorn and ridicule,” said Andrew Hamilton, a professor of
entomology and an expert in pest management at the University of Melbourne in Australia.

I would say “Not at all”. There’s far more empirical support here than for man-made global warming.  ;- )

Read it all at Nature.

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