A recent study has revealed that climate change could accelerate spring’s arrival by 3 weeks over the next century.
The research, published on October 14 in the journal Environmental Research Letters, was authored by a team of experts from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the University of Wisconsin and the U.S. Geological Survey.
The assessment was made by employing the extended Spring Indices, in order to forecast when leaves and flowers would sprout, depending on day length. Experts analyzed plant phenology, which represents the timing of these periodic biological processes based on weather conditions.
It was determined that this phenology would be greatly disrupted, especially in the Pacific Northwest and in the Rocky Mountains. Slightly smaller changes would also occur in the southern regions as well, but in those parts early spring is already a common occurrence.
According to projections made by scientists, by 2100 winter might end 3 weeks sooner than Americans have become habituated, as a result of climate change.
Consequently, spring flowers will emerge much earlier than expected, and this event won’t be a one-off exception, but a permanent characteristic of future weather patterns in the U.S. This trend has been in the making over the last decades, and it will be especially noticeable in areas from the Lower 48 states.
While this might sound like good news for residents affected by harsh winters, in fact this phenomenon will have an overwhelmingly negative impact on fauna, according to the study authors.
For example, long-distance migratory birds will be affected, since they tend to organize their migration process according to day length. They might reach their breeding spots and discover that plants that they depend on for food resources have already been depleted.
Also, these weather changes might make false springs more prevalent, greatly damaging flora as well. When unusually warm periods occur during winter, plants are more likely to bloom, since it appears as if the cold weather has ended.
However, if a sudden freeze strikes, then even the sturdiest plants can be destroyed by frost, and eventually they might fail to produce fruit and seeds. Newly planted, young vegetation are particularly susceptible to this type of danger, especially if oscillating air temperatures cause repeated thawing and freezing.
This is greatly detrimental not just to the plants, but also to animals that rely on them for nutrition and survival. Also, false springs could spell trouble for the agricultural sector as well, since entire crops could be compromised as the plant production cycle is perturbed.
For now, it can’t be clearly predicted exactly which regions will be the most affected, since climate change is an extremely intricate phenomenon, whose impact can’t be fully assessed. The study authors are currently conducting follow-up research, in order to predict other extreme phenomena such as heat waves and droughts.
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