I’m not a huge fan of winter. Even though I grew up in New England, where we would get a predictably larger snowfall than we get here in the Philadelphia region, I don’t miss it. It’s not that I don’t like snow. Snow is great. But sub-freezing temperatures are no fun, particularly the prolonged bouts we’ve had with weather below the 20 degree mark in the recent past.
So I’m feeling good about the onset of early spring. The warm weather days we’ve had lately – including several in late February in which temperatures climbed into the 70s – are not just a fluke. Spring is officially coming early. In some areas around the country, by more than 20 days.
In Chicago, the city experienced a January and February without snow. It was the first time in recorded history the city went without.
According to the USA National Phenology Network, a mostly federally funded organization that studies cyclical climate change, we’re seeing evidence that spring has indeed sprung. Cherry blossoms are in bloom across the region already. Neighborhood yards are covered in purple crocus. I’ve seen some lawns that could already use a mow.
The USA-NPN made the determination in a study that showed three out of four National Parks are experiencing early tree leafing, a sign of the onset of biological spring.
To be honest, as much as I’m concerned about climate change, early spring sounds like a relief to me. With the threat of prolonged cold mostly behind us, we can get down to planning to be outdoors again – to take walks, go for hikes, take in a Union or Phillies game without freezing.
But, of course, while early spring will make us more comfortable temperature-wise, it could cause other problems.
“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,” said Dr. Jake Weltzin, a United States Geological Survey ecologist and executive director of the USA-NPN, in a recent article published on the organization’s website.
Weltzin noted in the same article that early spring temperatures are generally disruptive. They can mean early breeding seasons for pests like mosquitoes and ticks. They can make growing season for certain crops early and expose them to sudden frosts. They can throw off bird and bee populations and even influence hunting and fishing seasons in ways that aren’t always ideal.
Regardless of what you think causes climate change, it’s definitely happening. In fact 16 of the 17 hottest years on record have occurred since 2000. Last year was the hottest ever.
So while it might be nice to put the down jackets and wool caps back in storage, it’s worth being cognizant of our changing weather times. And maybe wondering if there isn’t more we should be doing.