Sunday, March 23, 2014

Spring Is Arriving Earlier and Earlier in the U.S.

A map showing how many days earlier "first leaf" is occurring in each U.S. state when comparing 1991-2010 with 1961-1980. Click to enlarge.
Parts of the Southwest and Southeast are seeing spring arrive up to a week earlier, while areas in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic are experiencing spring five days earlier.  New Mexico is leading the way state-wise, with spring starting an average of eight days earlier.  Ohio, West Virginia, and Florida are the only outliers that have seen barely any change in the start date.

The shift toward an earlier spring is consistent with global patterns of climate change.  Changes in first leaf date don't just pose an issue for gardeners.  They have a trickle-down effect on animals also rely on these cues to lose their winter coats, prepare summer dens, give birth, and many other processes.  While some might welcome a quicker exit from winter, it’s possible that these changes could disrupt delicate balances that have been in place for hundreds and thousands of years.

Spring Is Arriving Earlier and Earlier in the U.S.

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