WASHINGTON (AP) -
Spring has sprung early - potentially record early - in much of the United
States, bringing celebrations of shorts weather mixed with unease about a
climate gone askew.
and other plants are popping up earlier than usual from Arizona to New
Jersey and down to Florida. Washington is dotted with premature pink
blossoming trees. Grackles, red-winged blackbirds and woodpeckers are just
plain early birds this year.
warm weather has the natural world getting ahead of - even defying - the
calendar, scientists said Tuesday.
In cities like
Indianapolis, Pittsburgh and Columbus, Ohio, spring has arrived about a
month earlier than the 30-year average and about 20 days earlier than in
2012, which was the earliest spring on record.
Scientists at the
U.S. Geological Survey’s National Phenology Network, which studies seasonal
signs, have calculated local and a national spring index based on
observations of lilacs, honeysuckles and temperature records that are fed
into a computer model.
The spring leaf
index goes back to 1900 and 2012 has been the earliest on record . But
preliminary records show this year ahead of 2012 in a good chunk of the
nation. It’s still too early to draw a conclusion for the country, said
University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee scientist Mark D. Schwartz and phenology
network director Jake Weltzin.
As the world warms,
spring is arriving earlier, but not everywhere. For a broad swath of the
U.S., 2017 sticks out like a crocus in early February. Nashville, St. Louis,
Washington, Atlanta, Pittsburgh, Columbus and Indianapolis are at least
three weeks early on the spring index, but Phoenix and Los Angeles are
running a bit late.
Weltzin said Tuesday.
The latest early
spring isn’t supposed to show up for decades based on computer simulations
that model springs of the future, said Jeff Masters, meteorology director of
the private Weather Underground.
“This is basically
a year 2100 sort of spring that we’re seeing this year,” Masters said. “Way
Fox butterflies are
already out in Massachusetts and New York. Beetles are scurrying around
Martha’s Vineyard. Crocuses and snowdrops are in full flower in suburban
Boston - all exceptionally early because of warm temperatures and little
snow cover, said Boston University biology professor Richard Primack.
“I am already
hearing woodpeckers knocking on tree trunks” when these sounds usually occur
in March or April, said Primack, editor of the journal Biological
shoveler duck is usually the next to last duck to make it to upstate New
York, arriving sometime in April, but it’s already here, said Kevin McGowan,
an ornithologist at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology .
sightings stem from warm weather in February that Masters called
“off-the-charts weird” that included upper 90s in Oklahoma and a
first-of-its-kind February tornado in Massachusetts.
Masters and Penn
State University climate scientist Michael Mann, who photographed flowers
sprouting outside his central Pennsylvania house in mid-February, said this
is a combination of natural weather variation and man-made warming of the
Warm weather can
lead to crop damage if there is a freeze in March or April after plants have
already bloomed. It can also worsen droughts, which happened in 2012,
climate scientist Kim Cobb said what’s happening is disconcerting, no matter
how nice it is for people.
“Sure we can’t wait
to shed our wool coats and hats each spring, but such warm temperatures are
wreaking havoc, sight unseen on key crops,” Cobb said in an email. “Here in
Georgia peach buds have been robbed of necessary ‘chill hours’ this winter.”
The early spring is
even changing language with some calling recent weeks “alt-spring” and
meteorology professor David Titley, said it feels like being on one of the
recently discovered Earth-size planets around a nearby star.
“Everything is kind
of familiar (weather-wise) but different. I was walking around ... in my
shirt sleeves and I was almost hot. In February. That’s not supposed to
happen,” said the retired admiral.