- In parts of the Southeast, this year’s spring is the earliest on record.
- Spring is 24 days early in both Washington, D.C., and New York City.
- Not surprisingly, the early spring is due in part to the unusually warm winter.
Spring has sprung.
Following a mild winter, flowers are blooming and trees are leafing out earlier than ever recorded across portions of the U.S., scientists announced this week.
In parts of the Southeast, this year’s spring is the earliest in the 39 years records have been kept, according to data from the National Phenology Network.
“Spring leaf-out continues … three weeks earlier than the long-term average in some locations,” the network said.
Locations such as Washington, D.C., and New York City are 24 days early; Philadelphia is 16 days early and Little Rock, Arkansas, is 9 days early.
“Phenologists – who study seasonal phenomena in the natural world – calculate the start of spring based on observations of ‘leaf-outs’ (the appearance of tiny leaves on trees), blooms for species active in early spring (such as lilac and honeysuckle) and weather events and temperature conditions,” the Guardian reported.
Not surprisingly, the early spring is due in part to the unusually warm winter: The U.S. winter (December-February) was the sixth-warmest on record, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced Friday. NOAA’s records go back to 1895.
This past winter, all of the lower 48 states were warmer than average, NOAA said, and 22 states had one of their top 10 warmest winters on record.
While some people might welcome the warmth of an early spring, it can cause problems in the natural world.
Changes in the timing of spring can affect human health, bringing early-season disease-carriers such as ticks and mosquitoes, and an earlier, longer and more vigorous pollen season, the U.S. Geological Survey said.
In addition, while a longer growing season can result in increased yields for some crops, it is risky because of the higher likelihood of plant damage caused by late frosts or summer drought.
This year’s unusual warmth is part of long-term trend due in part to man-made global warming.
“We’ve known for over a decade now that climate change is variably advancing the onset of spring across the United States,” the U.S. Geological Survey said.
That does not bode well for allergy sufferers this spring.
A University of Maryland study last year reported “human-induced climate change is disrupting nature’s calendar, including when plants bloom and the spring season starts, and new research suggests we’re increasingly paying the price for it in the form of seasonal allergies.”
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