Climate Change Forces Start Of Spring To Arrive About Two Weeks Sooner In Arctic

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The world will generally be “springing forward” earlier than usual this year, and as a new study suggests, the effect of this phenomenon will be most noticeable in the polar regions. This means the start of spring might take place as many as 16 days earlier than it did a decade ago, and about two weeks, give or take a few days, sooner than it would in several other parts of the world, including the United States.

In a study published Friday in the journal Scientific Reports, researchers discovered that spring arrives four days earlier than it did in the past decade for each 10-degree northward increment from the equator. As Science Daily explained, that means the start of spring could come only a day earlier than it did a decade ago in Los Angeles, Dallas, New Orleans, and other cities in southern to mid latitudes. Meanwhile, in cities such as Chicago, Seattle, or Washington D.C., this date could fall four days sooner. For those in the polar regions, the effect is especially pronounced, with those living in the Arctic likely to usher in the spring about 16 days earlier.

Study lead author Eric Post, a polar ecologist in the University of California-Davis Department of Wildlife, Fish, and Conservation Biology, explained in a statement that his team’s research backs up several past observations on the start of spring coming earlier than usual in the polar regions.

“Yes, spring is arriving earlier, and the Arctic is experiencing greater advances of spring than lower latitudes. What our study adds is that we connect such differences to more rapid springtime warming at higher latitudes.”

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In what Science Daily described as the “most comprehensive” paper to ever tackle the topic of phenology, or springtime advance, Post and his colleagues looked through 743 existing estimates of springtime advance and various rates of springtime warming across the Northern Hemisphere, dating back as far as 86 years ago. After crunching all the numbers and taking several variables into account, the researchers concluded that there is a connection between the earlier start of spring and warming weather in higher latitudes. They also warned that such a phenomenon could pose a risk to migratory birds that fly to the Arctic and other high latitude areas to breed in the spring months.

“Whatever cues they’re relying on to move northward for spring might not be reliable predictors of food availability once they get there if the onset of spring at these higher latitudes is amplified by future warming,” said Post.

The new research comes a few weeks after Vox expressed concern about how the start of spring had come unusually early in several parts of the United States. While the report noted that the mild weather may be a welcome development for many people, the publication cited a 2017 article from the United States Geological Survey (USGS), which stressed that an early spring could also lead to an increase in ticks, mosquitos, and other “early-season disease carriers,” as well as a longer and more intense pollen season.

“We’ve known for over a decade now that climate change is variably advancing the onset of spring across the United States,” the USGS wrote.