Most people can't wait for spring to arrive. It means flowers and warmer weather, all welcome changes from the doldrums of winters.
Now we know that spring is arriving sooner in the Northern Hemisphere than it has in the past, thanks to a study published in Scientific Reports. And the further north you go, the sooner spring will chase away winter.
For example, Los Angeles may experience spring only a day earlier than it did 10 years ago, but in Seattle or Chicago, spring will arrive four days earlier. If you live in the Arctic, congratulations! Spring could arrive 16 days earlier than it used to.
To determine how springtime is starting earlier, researchers looked at temperature records and 743 earlier studies from across 86 years about various biological indicators of spring, including birds migrating, plants blooming and amphibians sounding their mating calls to see if they were occurring earlier. The result demonstrated that not only is spring making itself known sooner, but it's warmer, too. Since 1989, in areas north of the 59th parallel north, temperatures have steadily increased. This warming in turn has likely sped up those biological indicators of spring.
Before you break out in a happy springtime gig, spring arriving sooner isn't all it's cracked up to be. The livelihood of migratory birds, for instance, may be cause for concern.
"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," Eric Post, a fellow of the John Muir Institute and polar ecologist in the University California Davis Department of Wildlife, Fish and Conservation Biology, said in a statement about the study. "The springtime emergence of the plants and insects they'll eat when they arrive is happening faster than the changes at the lower latitudes those birds are departing from."
Animals that rely on Arctic sea ice, like walruses and polar bear, probably aren't crazy about things warming up sooner, either, because it impacts their ability to hunt.
The ramifications of these trends aren't currently known, but spring's early arrival could disrupt the delicate balance of various ecosystems — not to mention how soon you'll need to buy allergy medicine.