Spring has come earlier than ever before in much of the United States. Twelve states had their warmest January and February ever, while another 18 had one of their 10 warmest, Scientific American reported.
The mild winter led to the earliest recorded signs of spring, such as leaves on trees and blossoming flowers, in New York City, Nantucket, and elsewhere. Migratory birds have arrived ahead of schedule, and some blossoms are already wilting. In general, the first leaves tend to arrive about a week earlier in northern and western states than they did 60 years ago.
The View From the U.K.
This isn’t just happening in the United States. The U.K. has the longest-running meteorological record in the world, as amateur scientists, naturalists, and gardeners made observations of seasonal change going back to the 18th century. Those records were collated and compared to observations from modern citizen scientists, and research published last year found that flowers now bloom a month earlier than they did in 1753.
Early spring is nice for humans but rapid changes to the rhythm of the seasons is difficult for wildlife to adapt to. Plants that flower early can be killed by a late frost, or could bloom and die before the pollinator species they rely on comes out of hibernation.
Some species’ annual rhythms are dictated by temperature and others by things like day length, which can bring them out of synch. Pollinator species like bees and hummingbirds miss out on the nectar they use as food, while the plants are not pollinated as well and produce fewer offspring.