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Spring Springs Forward: Study Shows Spring Arrives Earlier Than Usual the Farther North You Travel

Climate
The UK-based Climate Coalition says frogspawn could be a sign of an early spring. Andrew Bailey / Flickr

Despite the heavy snowfall in the Northeast this week, spring comes faster on average than it did 10 years ago. This is especially true the farther north you travel, according to a study by the University of California, Davis.

The study, published in Scientific Reports on March 2, found that spring arrives four days earlier for every 10 degrees north you travel, compared to its arrival time a decade ago.



This graph shows the relationship between latitude and the rate of Northern Hemisphere springtime over the past eight decades. Springer Nature

This means that people who have spent the past 10 years in Los Angeles or New Orleans, where spring only arrives around one day earlier, might not notice much of a difference. But the closer you get to the North Pole, where spring now arrives around 16 days ahead of its former schedule, the more you might notice a change.

According to a UC Davis release, the study is the most comprehensive to date of how spring's arrival advances with latitude, and that comprehensiveness paid off. It found that the rate at which an earlier spring correlates with degrees north is about three times greater than previously thought.

The study's lead author and UC Davis polar ecologist Eric Post explained the importance of his research. "This study verifies observations that have been circulating in the scientific community and popular reports for years," he said.

The research raises further questions about how its findings might impact migratory birds, who rely on certain plants blooming or insects hatching at certain latitudes as they fly north.

"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," Post explained.

The findings come as the Arctic experiences its warmest winter on record. But they also affirm all of the small ways in which climate change alters the seasonal rhythms plants, animals and humans have grown accustomed to.

The UK-based Climate Coalition, for example, has begun asking its members to "notice changes," especially signs of early spring such as wasps, frogspawn or blackthorn flowers. They provide a checklist based on observational guidelines issued by the Woodland Trust, which citizen scientists can use to record sightings in their neighborhood.

"By talking about the things we love, we have the opportunity to protect them," the Climate Coalition's website says.

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