TAMPA, Fla. — Move over Punxsutawney Phil. We have another way to determine spring’s arrival.
While we’ve known for a while that climate change is advancing the onset of spring across the United States. But with tools from the USGS-led USA National Phenology Network, we can see on a map just how far ahead (or behind) of schedule spring is in your neck of the woods.
Enough cool weather in Tampa Bay this winter has actually caused the spring leaf season to start about 10 days later than usual.
Warmer than usual weather can cause the spring leaf season to arrive early. Much of the southeastern United States is running 10 days ahead of normal.
Overall, the spring leaf-out has arrived in southern states. Spring arrived on time to one week late in Florida and southern Texas, was one-two weeks early in the middle and northern part of southeast states, and has since slowed and is a few days late in Georgia and the Carolinas. Spring is days to weeks early in parts of the southwest and west coast.
“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 USGS ecologist and the executive director of the USA-NPN, to the USGS.
For example, changes in the timing of spring can affect human health, bringing early-season disease-carriers such as ticks and mosquitos, and an earlier, longer and more vigorous pollen season. And while a longer growing season can result in increased yields for some crops, it is risky because of the higher likelihood of plant damage caused by late frosts or summer drought.
Even something as seemingly simple and beautiful as flowers blooming earlier can disrupt the critically important link between wildflowers and the arrival of birds, bees, and butterflies that feed on and pollinate the flowers.
Such changes may prove beneficial to some plants and animals, including some harmful invasive ones, but may be detrimental to others.
Changes in seasons can affect economically and culturally important outdoor recreation activities, including affecting the timing of hunting and fishing seasons.
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