Wednesday, April 6, 2016

March Heat and the Trend of Earlier Springs & Later Winters

In 2016 we experienced the hottest month of February in recorded history and now satellite data suggests that this was followed by the hottest month of March ever. The heat in the Arctic is being described by scientists as "crazy". Europe is also suffering from the warmest March on record.

As reported in National Geographic, a study published in Nature indicates that summer is now coming much earlier in many pats of Europe. On average summer like weather conditions arrive 10 days earlier than four decades ago. In the absence of major emissions reductions, spring may arrive 20 days earlier by the end of the century.

Pictures from Paris in early April looked strikingly like June. Across Europe the flowers are blooming earlier and the trees are budding sooner.

This warming is directly related to climate change. As explained by the study's co-author Julien Cattiaux, a climate scientist with France’s National Center for Meteorological Research: "The accelerated summers correspond with a buildup of heat-trapping gases over the past half-century."

A similar trend is discernible in the US. Spring as defined by "specific temperature thresholds and circulation patterns" is occurring around 10 days earlier. While fall and winter are coming increasingly later.

Another study found that summers are coming 6 days earlier In China, while winters have contracted by 11 days.

These changes are impacting wildlife migration patterns including birds. They also have an impact on agriculture. The habitat of birds, bees and other wildlife is also changing creating less than ideal conditions for many species. In Estonia the warmer weather is being blamed for fish kills.

Nowhere is the heat being felt more than in the Arctic. March temperatures achieved record highs and this has set a record for for the lowest maximum extent. In Southeast Alaska temperatures climbed above 70 degrees in March, smashing records for this time of year.

Other areas in Alaska also broke records in March. What makes these extremes noteworthy is that they are part of a number of record high readings in recent months. At the end of last year temperatures at the North Pole to 50 degrees higher than the normal. Consecutive winters are way above the statistical average. To illustrate the lack of snowfall associated with this warm weather, the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race had to bring in snow cover.

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