A few weeks ago, the province announced that it was increasing the minimum temperature limit from 55 C to 70 C. (The minimum temperature of 60 C was also raised from June, 2015 to 65 C.)
And yet, as I walked around the Ontario capital on a recent afternoon, the weather was still cold, the air was still frigid, and the snowpack was still a mile thick.
But the weather on the other side of the lake was much warmer.
I’m standing in front of a park with the lake in the background, and a pair of warm, white-tipped black-and-white birds perched on branches on a tree.
These birds, called skimmers, were born in the coldest places on the lake, and now nest in warm spots around the lake and on the ice, which are much cooler.
The birds have a unique way of looking at the lake’s temperature — they fly in the sky, so they’re looking directly at the temperature.
This is what makes them unique.
“I was looking up at the water and thinking, wow, what is that temperature?” says Jennifer MacNaughton, a professor of wildlife ecology at the University of Guelph and the author of the recent book “Lake of the Sun.”
The temperature of the water has to change with the temperature of sunlight.
So what the birds are seeing is what the sun does when it’s above the lake.
This image shows the temperature difference between the sun and the water in the summer of 2016.
(Courtesy of Jennifer MacCulloch) “And they’re seeing that difference in the temperature because that’s how they evolved to look at the environment,” MacNaughlin says.
The skimmers have evolved to see the lake as the warmest place in the world.
“If you look at their vision, they’re basically seeing the sun.
They’re looking at what they would see on the surface of the Earth.”
And, if the lake is warm enough, they see it through the trees and even through the ice.
So why do they do it?
MacNaugtsons research indicates that when the water is warmer, the skimmers will be attracted to the water.
The animals may be trying to get more food or mates from the water, and so they are more likely to follow the sun into the water to find the warm water.
“It’s really a really interesting idea,” MacCULLOCH said.
“We don’t know all the answers to why the skimmer is going to be attracted.”
If you’re going to have a lake, it has to be warm enough to support them.
MacNauga says there are lots of different reasons for the skimming phenomenon.
“The question is, does it just happen naturally or is it a product of human-caused climate change?”
In other words, is it due to humans or is there something about the lake itself that is causing it?
MacCunaghan says there may be a natural temperature shift in the lake that drives the skimmings.
She thinks there may also be some biological or environmental change that makes the water warmer and that can make the birds more attracted.
“In some ways it could be that the skims are just following a biological pathway, but it could also be that we’ve done a lot of things that are causing this to happen,” she says.
But MacCunnaghan says that if the skippers are really getting to know the lake well, they may be able to figure out what’s causing it.
“And the only way to tell is to do something,” she said.
She says the research has been encouraging and will continue to be.
“When I look at it from a wildlife conservation point of view, it really is a really cool experiment to try to figure it out,” she added.
She added that she hopes the skipper will become a good witness for the researchers to see if they can understand the nature of the phenomenon.