Spring has sprung! Well, kind of. It’s not really spring yet but, for most of the country, the winter blues are fading away. A February baby and lover of all things winter, I am keeping my coats and boots out in hopes for more snow. But most of the country is happily putting them away given that we just had the warmest February in decades.
The weather’s been so warm that Washington D.C.’s National Cherry Blossom Festival was just moved up five days to accommodate an anticipated early peak for the famous blossoms.
But don’t get too excited about this early spring weather. The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) is quick to dash those happy thoughts and point out that this is all just another symptom of climate change. In a new analysis the USGS shared from the USA-National Phenology Network (USA-NPN), we can see that early spring has swept across the Southeast and is working its way across the country. The USGS goes on to say that this new analysis is reaffirming what scientists already know: “that climate change is variably advancing the onset of spring across the United States.”
And this warm weather isn’t happening only in the States. Temperatures in Antarctica reached a balmy 63.5 degrees on March 1—aka the same temperature as Cairo, Egypt, as Mental Floss reports. Now that’s warm, but it’s still not the warmest temp the world’s southernmost continent has reached. Signy Island in the southern Atlantic Ocean hit 67.6 degrees on January 30, 1982.
Still, this weather is great, so what’s the big deal?
“While these earlier springs might not seem like a big deal—and who among us doesn’t appreciate a balmy day or a break in dreary winter weather—it poses significant challenges for planning and managing important issues that affect our economy and our society,” says Dr. Jake Weltzin, a USGS ecologist and the executive director of the USA-NPN.
Changes in the timing of spring can affect human health (a longer allergy season, greater risk of mosquito-borne illnesses) and disrupt the important link between flowers and bees, birds and butterflies. Seasonal changes can also affect outdoor activities that are economically and culturally important, such as damage to crops and the timing of hunting and fishing seasons. Not to mention the early appearance of storms, which can cause harm to humans, animals and property.
That’s not to say you shouldn’t go outside and smile at the sunshine. Enjoy it! Just don’t take it for granted, as that lovely weather could be doing some not so lovely things to other parts of the country.