Thursday, March 02, 2017

Spring Moving Forward at Record Rate

The northern hemisphere is experiencing a much earlier spring due to global warming, causing problems for plants and wildlife as the natural cycle goes out of sync.

Silent witnesses … early spring blossom is a sign of climate change. (Image Credit: bwrabbitgirl via Flickr) Click to Enlarge.
Spring is arriving ever earlier in the northern hemisphere.  One sedge species in Greenland is now springing to growth 26 days earlier than it did a decade ago.  And in the wintry United States, spring arrived 22 days early this year in Washington DC, the national capital.

The evidence comes from those silent witnesses, the natural things that respond to climate signals.  The relatively new science of phenology – the calendar record of first bud, first flower, first nesting behavior and first migrant arrivals – has over the last three decades repeatedly confirmed meteorological fears of global warming as a consequence of the combustion of fossil fuels.
Phenological observations
Further south, spring keeps on springing, according to the US Geological Survey (USGS), which has just published a new set of maps based on phenological observations.

And, once again, an early spring doesn’t mean a sunnier, kinder world for everybody.  Ticks and mosquitoes become more active, pollen seasons last longer.  Crops could flourish – or be at risk from a sudden late frost or summer drought.

Plants could bloom before the arrival of the birds, bees and butterflies that feed on and pollinate the flowers, with consequences for both the plant and the pollinator.

“While these earlier springs might not seem like a big deal – and who among us doesn’t appreciate a balmy day or a break in dreary winter weather – they pose significant challenges for planning and managing important issues that affect our economy and our society,” says one of the authors of the report, Dr Jake Weltzin, a USGS ecologist and national director of the USA National Phenology Network.

Read more at Spring Moving Forward at Record Rate

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