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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. www.eenews.net. 202-628-6500

 

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


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