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Spring 2012 Arrives Exceptionally Early

Spring 2012 Arrives Exceptionally Early

It’s not you.  Spring is arriving earlier and earlier each year and mounting climate science supports this unnerving fact.  Since 1960, spring, at least in North America, has been arriving 1.1 days earlier each decade. In western portions of North America, spring is arriving particularly early – 1.5 days earlier per decade.

So what does this mean beyond earlier blooming flowers and warmer spring temperatures?  Clearly, climate change is at play here and milder winters and shorter springs that blur quickly into summer have much larger ramifications not only for the climate, but for the animals and plants that have adapted to specific seasonal patterns for survival.

Birds, for example, are triggered to migrate based on a combination of interrelated factors – mainly food and a change in season.  While some species will remain local given a reliable food source (a bird feeder for example), most birds will migrate thousands of miles each year to find food, mate, raise young and start the cycle all over again.  As climate change alters the weather patterns of the Earth, one of the biggest concerns with migrating species is that the animal will arrive to its destination early, or late, and will inevitably miss blooming seasons essential to its survival.  With spring arriving one to three weeks early this year, many birds, in addition to other migratory animals such as butterflies and caribou, will be impacted.

Plants, like animals, are particularly susceptible to a changing climate.  Many trees will be triggered to bud and blossom earlier if temperatures are high, but could then die or be significantly damaged for the season should the temperatures suddenly drop back down. Cities like Chicago are not taking newfound weather patterns lightly with respect to urban trees.  In fact, the windy city recently added a mass of new street trees to their planting roster, replacing many classic maples with the American sweet gum, which can withstand hotter temperatures and is native to southeastern portions of the United States.

Northern states like Vermont are not only feeling the visual impact of changing weather patterns, but the economic impacts as well.  Maple syrup production, a major market and tourist force in the state, was down significantly this spring due to particularly warm temperatures during the peak of sugaring.

Massachusetts, currently in a drought due to little snow fall this winter, experienced near 90 degree temperatures for the Boston Marathon on April 16th, sending hundreds of athletes to local hospitals for heat exhaustion.  Allergies and other health-related concerns are also on the rise in the general population given the overall shift in seasons and weather.

While extreme weather can happen at any time, it’s important to realize the fragile ecosystem relationships at stake with a changing climate.  It’s easy to focus on ourselves, but humans are not the only ones impacted by weather pattern disruption — this change has sweeping implications for everything on Earth.  Indeed, spring 2012 has been an exceptional season weather-wise thus far across much of the country and it’s only a precursor to summer 2012, which surely holds in store some additional heat.

Related Stories:

Mild Winter Early Spring Bad News for Butterflies and Bees

Scientists Say Climate Change May Be Irreversible

Climate Change Denial Research Funded by Big Oil

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Photo Credit: Martin Hirtreiter

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38 comments

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1:32AM PDT on May 20, 2012

Frankly speaking, we already have summer now...

3:39AM PDT on May 1, 2012

It's a vital problem for all of us indeed, but under present circumstances I feel greatly sorry for fauna for they are not guilty of what is happening but human beings are. They have no choice as people do being programmed.

3:39AM PDT on May 1, 2012

It's a vital problem for all of us indeed, but under present circumstances I feel greatly sorry for fauna for they are not guilty of what is happening but human beings are. They have no choice as people do being programmed.

3:39AM PDT on May 1, 2012

It's a vital problem for all of us indeed, but under present circumstances I feel greatly sorry for fauna for they are not guilty of what is happening but human beings are. They have no choice as people do being programmed.

3:23AM PDT on Apr 30, 2012

Ticks starting in January; three times the usual amount since then. Dry as a bone all spring. April showers used to bring May flowers now, ticks and dust.

12:06PM PDT on Apr 28, 2012

Thanks for posting.

11:19PM PDT on Apr 27, 2012

I'm in Australia and we've had so many massive floods after a prolonged drought - we've had the hottest Autumn EVER where I live ...Many farmers are either going broke after they've ruined their land with outdated methods...or having to completely rethink what we grow where.
Not a bad thing and we need to adapt , but I dislike the climate change deniers complete refusal to admit that so many scientists might have a point. Reminds me of creationists.

1:13PM PDT on Apr 27, 2012

noted

11:51AM PDT on Apr 27, 2012

Thank You Tara for posting. Here in north central Alberta, Canada, we had unusually warmer weather in Jan., Feb. and part of March, now April we have had three snow storms, but the weather is not too cold, around -5 to -8. The farmers will definitely need rain! Down in Eastern Canada, in the Ottawa area approx two weeks ago had +28C, but it didn't last for very long.
The weather patterns are definitely changing, but I believe that nature looks after, and heals itself.

10:45AM PDT on Apr 27, 2012

I have one exception with this article. the statement that the ecosystem is fragile. It is not. It has gone through many climate changes in the past.Individuals within the ecosystem will not survive. Maybe whole species will not survive. But the system will. It'll modify to the new the conditions.

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