Spring Comes Early In The US

Mar 9, 2017 By Maya K, Young Editor
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Normally folks mark March 21st as the first day of spring, also known as the vernal equinox

But spring is already appearing down the coast of California, Nevada, Colorado, and central Kansas, as well as Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio. The east coast including the Virginias and Philadelphia, are also seeing an early onset of spring this year.  

Scientists have known for years and years that climate change is advancing the start of spring in the United States. But how do they figure out the start of spring?

Signs Of Early Spring

The USGS-led USA National Phenology Network created maps to show just how far ahead of schedule spring is arriving all over the nation.

To create the maps and predict the date of arrival, researchers use climate change indicators called Spring Indices. These tools detect when enough heat is accumulated to begin blooming and leafing in plants. The plants that they use for their research are lilacs and honeysuckles because of their temperature sensitivity.

Information was also gathered from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The NOAA had nationwide heat and temperature data that was useful for creating the maps. After researchers applies the plant models to recent weather data, they were able to create maps of leaf emergence for the plant species. These maps were national-scale maps to gather data for the whole country. These daily maps were compared to historical maps to find how different this year is when looking at a long-term average. This data helps to show how unusually early spring is coming this year, in the United States.

Issues With Early Spring

Although the thought of an early spring may sound nice, it comes along with its concerns. 

Flowers blooming early can disrupt the harmony between the wildflowers and the small species that feed on and pollinate the flowers. If these early, mild temperatures are followed by a sudden freezing spell, the buds and blooms can be killed by the frost. This would also affect the plant's flowering and fruiting cycles for the rest of the year. Also, the early snow melt and increasing temperatures can cause summertime droughts and forest fires. 

The early onset of spring creates obstacles for the planning and managing of issues that can affect the country’s economy as well as our society. The change in seasons can disrupt the industry of outdoor recreational activities, including changing fishing and hunting seasons.

Changes can also be brought to human health. This brings disease-carriers such as ticks and mosquitos, and a prolonged pollen season. Who knows what an early season will bring next!