Have you been feeling unseasonably warm recently, dear Americans? Well funnily enough, that’s because it has literally been unseasonably warm – and for most of the southern US and right up the eastern seaboard, spring has arrived up to three weeks earlier than would be naturally expected.
You’ll never guess why.
The United States Geological Survey (USGS) has been keeping an eye on all things earth science for some time now, and part of their remit includes keeping an eye on America’s leaves. There’s such a thing as the Spring Leaf Index, which is a measure of how and when vernal flora bursts into life – a clear indicator of when spring has begun.
Spring begins slightly earlier at southern latitudes due to it being warmer there earlier, but as these maps clearly show, it’s barely the end of February and it’s already spring in New York, Virginia, New Mexico, and Arizona.
The arrival of spring across the US so far. USGS
Although a very early spring isn’t the worst thing in the world for people who don’t like to be chilly, it is in itself a chilling reminder that climate change is taking place at a ridiculously fast pace. A recent study clocked it as occurring 170 times faster than would be naturally expected.
“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 – it poses significant challenges for planning and managing important issues that affect our economy and our society,” Dr. Jake Weltzin, a USGS ecologist and head of the National Phenology Network, said in a statement.
Early springs mean that insect-borne diseases make an appearance far sooner and stick around for longer. Summer droughts are more likely, as are powerful climatic events like thunderstorms and hurricanes. Bees, the prime pollinators, will get thrown out of whack as they remain unprepared for an early blossoming.
Some plants and animals may benefit from increasing warmth, whereas others will not. The ecology of America’s National Parks will have to try and adapt either way, as another recent study revealed that three-quarters of them are experiencing early onset springs compared to a century ago.
If you wish to protest this in a constructive way, or if you are just interested in climate change, you can help American scientists in their quest to understand the world around us by becoming a citizen scientist for the USGS – just click here to get started.