People across North America may see their winters give way to spring a few weeks earlier each year thanks to climate change.
Climate change is affecting different parts of the world in countless different ways, and it’s not necessarily a good thing for some regions. According to a report from NBC, a recent study from scientists at the University of Wisconsin, the U.S. Geological Survey, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service shows that warm weather may have dire consequences for both wildlife and the agricultural sector.
The study, published in the journal Environmental Research Letters, explains that unseasonably warm temperatures can create what is known as a “false spring.” This can trick plants and animals into coming out of their dormant winter states early, and can have serious effects on their reproductive cycles. Additionally, young, fragile plants that sprout too early may be killed in a regression back into cold weather before the spring officially begins.
The study warns that by 2100, the spring could be pushed as far as three weeks back in the lower 48 states. The effect of climate change on the start time of spring, however, the changes won’t be the same throughout the entire country. In some places around the Great Plains, spring may even start later than it currently does.
The study referred largely to the beginning of plant growth in the spring, or the “spring onset.” The earlier onset of spring has led to phonological mismatches between plants and the animals that consume them.
The early onset of spring is marked by the emergence of the first leaves or flowers on plants. These events are largely influenced by the temperature and the amount of sunlight that they get each day. While the amount of sunlight each day, or photoperiod, will not change along with the climate, the temperature certainly will. This can confuse plants into blooming when their chances for survival aren’t optimal.