CIRUN - Climate Information: Responding to User Needs
Home > Environmental Change in the News

Environmental Change in the News

Early spring broke more than 4,300 U.S. records

Lacey Johnson, E&E reporter
Published: Friday, March 23, 2012

People should be used to seeing spring come a little bit early. In recent years, trees have been turning green up to a week sooner than they did from 1950 to 1980, according to data gathered from hundreds of weather stations across the United States. This spring, however, just might be the earliest ever recorded.

"It's at least three weeks earlier than the normal" in Milwaukee, said Mark Schwartz, a climatology professor and chairman of the geography department at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee. He has not had time to compile the national data yet, but he believes this spring will probably be the earliest on record for the eastern United States.

A map plotting spring's unusually early arrival in the United States. Graphic courtesy of Climate Central. "We had 85 degrees yesterday for our high in Milwaukee," said Schwartz, who watched the lilacs in his
backyard bloom at least a week earlier than normal. "Obviously, this is an extraordinary year."

The warmer weather has been most striking in the Northeast and Midwest. For the first 20 days of March, highs have been 10 to 15 degrees Fahrenheit above average in many locations east of the Rocky Mountains. And more than 4,300 record highs were documented from March 9 to 19, according to the National Climatic Data Center.

"There's always what we call 'natural variability' at play, and a warm spell in March is not out of the ordinary," said senior meteorologist Stu Ostro during a Weather Channel broadcast yesterday. "But ... records that have lasted more than 100 years are not only being broken -- they're being absolutely smashed."

Temperatures in Atlanta were in the 80s for the seventh day in a row this week, breaking a 1907 record, and International Falls, Minn., witnessed its warmest day in March history Sunday. Chicago, Detroit, Indianapolis and dozens of other U.S. cities all have reported similar weather events.

These unusual temperatures follow the fourth-warmest winter the country has ever recorded, and the second-warmest for much of New England. After last summer's record-breaking highs -- the hottest ever known in Texas and Oklahoma -- even climate change skeptics are beginning to have second thoughts.

"Up until a few years ago, I was very cynical that anything was different about the weather," Ostro said. "But my point of view has changed, and that's based on data and science -- not politics."

Reprinted from ClimateWire with permission from Environment & Energy Publishing, LLC. 202-628-6500


Back to Top

Reprinted from ClimateWire with permission from Environment & Energy Publishing, LLC. 202-628-6500.

Washington's cherry trees could start blooming in winterU.S. prepares new partnership to share water knowledge, technology

U.S. prepares new partnership to share water knowledge, technology

U.S. not immune to water challenges

Tree rings indicate Atlanta's water-use habits were set in very wet period

Spring has sprung in winter

Ski town's local businesses weigh rift with Chamber of Commerce over climate change

Shorter winter could hurt Shoshone Forest's local economy -- study

Scientists search for corals with higher temperature thresholds

Rising temperatures may decrease plant diversity

Researchers see significant decline in Great Lakes ice

Researchers develop robust mapping system to help Ethiopians cope with warming

Pakistan climate policy calls for Iranian gas, adaptation measures

Melting Alaska permafrost prompts landfill concerns

Marseille forum to end, but water issues surge forward

Lyme disease pushes northward and may increase infections this year

Ivory Coast farmers learn new ways to watch the weather

How a computer modeler predicted the catastrophe of the mountain pine beetle

Higher temperatures accelerate sexual reproduction of mountain pine beetles -- study

Greenland's huge ice sheet may melt faster than previously thought -- study

Extreme weather a threat to Seychelles island species

Early spring broke more than 4,300 U.S. records

Drought continues in U.K., threatening crops, reserves, industries

Delegates seek to integrate global water policies at high-level forum in France

Defense Department gets a map of potential climate chaos in Africa

Damage to oceans may reach $2T annually

Climate, exploitation pose synergistic threat to rainforests -- study

Climate change may reduce future use of groundwater

Climate change likely to cause mass migration in Asia-Pacific region

Brazil at crossroads on rainforest preservation

Bleaching may lead to tougher coral -- study

Anguilla battles a shrinking coastline

A 'knowledge gap' remains in China about groundwater use and resulting emissions