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Springtime to Come Three Weeks Earlier Thanks to Climate Change

posted: 10/14/15
by: Danny Clemens
Cultivated Tulip Field in Fraser Valley, British Columbia
Kevin Miller/iStock

Rising temperatures will push up the arrival of spring in the United States in coming years, researchers predict.

In a newly published study, University of Wisconsin-Madison researchers used the Spring Indices to extrapolate leaf and flower emergence dates for the remainder of the century, finding that spring plants will eventually bloom approximately three weeks earlier. The team attributes that shift to "greenhouse-forced climate change," which they say will have "complex and spatially variable effects on spring onset."

Different areas of the country will notice the shifting seasons at different times. In the Pacific Northwest and Mountain States, spring onset is expected to shift more rapidly than in southern regions, for example.

Although a shorter winter may be welcome news for sunshine-deprived humans, the shift could be detrimental for wildlife.

"Long distance migratory birds, for example, time their migration based on day length in their winter range. They may arrive in their breeding ground to find that the plant resources that they require are already gone," study author Andrew Allstadt explains in a news release.

Allstadt and his colleagues also predict a shift in the incidence of false springs, which occur when the air temperature drops below freezing after spring plant growth has already commenced. While much of the country will see fewer false springs, certain areas of the Great Plains will see a sharp rise.

"This is important as false springs can damage plant production cycles in natural and agricultural systems" Allstadt adds. "In some cases, an entire crop can be lost."

Allstadt's research is published online in the journal Environmental Research Letters.

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