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Field Notes

Covering the natural wonders of the Pacific Northwest

March 20, 2013 at 9:45 AM

Spring: In many places, it’s earlier than ever

Welcome to spring. To many, the most welcome of seasons, our time of birth and renewal arrives in the Northern hemisphere March 20.

Already the Puget lowlands have responded to the longer days. The swamp lanterns are glowing (thanks John Gussman, for this beautiful photo from the Elwha Valley, taken last week!)

Swamp lanters glow in the Elwha valley. Photo by John Gussman

Swamp lanters glow in the Elwha valley.
Photo by John Gussman

The crows are breaking twigs and buildings nests. Oregon grape is flushing yellow. The Indian plum is festooned with its delicate white tresses, and the call of chorus frogs is on the night air.  No swallows yet — at least that I have seen. But it won’t be long.

As spring arrives, scientists are telling us what many have already noticed: Spring is coming earlier than it used to.

The Union of Concerned Scientists in a recent release noted that from spring green up to the migratory timing of hummingbirds, spring has shifted its calendar by as many as five days earlier, and snow cover in June in the Northern Hemisphere has been lower over the past five years than at any time since satellite observations began in 1967.

As I recently reported in the Seattle Times, species such as the wolverine require deep snow persisting as late as June to survive. Wolverines make their birthing dens on deep snow, both for insulation, and protection from predators.

Wolverines need deep snow for their birthing dens. Climate change threatens their recovery from near extinction. Photo courtesy Conservation Northwest.  each wolverine is unique, enabling researchers to individually identify them by photograph. This wolverine was photographed by a remote camera on Bootjack Mountain in the Upper Icicle Valley south of SR 2. Photo courtesy Conservation Northwe

Wolverines need deep snow for their birthing dens. Climate change threatens their recovery from near extinction. Photo courtesy Conservation Northwest.

In an article published in January in the peer-reviewed journal PlosOne, scientists also found that using nature journals kept by Henry David Thoreau in 1852 and Aldo Leopold in 1935 that the record-breaking spring temperatures in Massachusetts and Wisconsin resulted in some of the earliest flowering times in recorded history for dozens of spring-flowering plants.

Here in Pugetopia, it seems winter never really came at all. Not even our once-a-year snow drama on the  streets of Seattle, just a little cold fog around Thanksgiving. Here’s adieu to the season that wasn’t.

Comments | Topics: spring

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