We have another climate metric to add to W/m^2 (climate forcing), GT/year (CO2 emissions), mm/year (sea level rise) and oC/decade (temperature change) and that would be m/day.
Meters per day is for tracking how quickly climatic zones will move as a result of man-made climate change and it is actually an astonishingly high number. David Appell at Quark Soup uses some rough numbers and comes up with a figure of 8 metres/day over the last 20 years. He bases this calculation on an article in the Scientific American (sounds like an oxymoron these days!) by Ken Caldiera who looks at the average drop in temperature in the mid-lattitudes as you move towards the poles. In the article, Ken looks to the future rather than the past two decades:
Without any change in our habits, Earth may warm by about five degrees Celsius (nine degrees Fahrenheit) by 2100, although the actual warming could be half or even double this amount, depending primarily on how clouds respond. This change is about the difference between the average climate of Boston, Mass., and Huntsville, Ala.
In the northern midlatitudes between 30 degrees north and 60 degrees north— a band that includes the U.S., Europe, China, and most of Canada and Russia— the annual average temperature drops two thirds of a degree C with each degree of increasing latitude. With five degrees C of warming in a century, that translates into an average poleward movement of more than 800 kilometers in that period,for an average poleward movement of temperature bands exceeding 20 meters each day. Squirrels may be able to keep up with this rate, but oak trees and earthworms have difficulty moving that fast.
20 metres per day! And as we must always do, keep in mind that this is an average and therefore some areas will experience less, and some more. As we can already observe, warming is as much as 3 to 5 times faster in some regions (this depends on the size and the time period you wish to choose – I could have defensibly made an even larger claim). So we are very likely talking about shifts in micro-climates of up to 100 meters per day. I am no biology or wildlife expert, but that is clearly a death sentence for many animals and ecosystems. I am sure mandas, who is, will have some opinions on that in the comments below.
The video here is Dr. Caldiera discussing his article.