A blooming warm winter

Carla
Carla Allen
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At the risk of having readers’ wrath fall upon me for the arrival of deep winter shortly after this is printed, this column is devoted to the issue of the spring-like intermissions we’ve been experiencing.

A daffodil bloomed in December at the Annapolis Royal Historic Gardens. The roller coaster weather we’ve experienced this winter has some plants sprouting and flowering months ahead of time.

 

I've watched the buds form and open on my Springwood heath, covering it completely in flowers in the past two months. It normally blooms in April. A friend noticed a coltsfoot in bloom last week and the Annapolis Royal had a December daffodil.

On a bike ride last week I noticed a tangle of honeysuckle draped over a wall, loaded with opening leaf buds.

I fear the plant kingdom is in for a nasty surprise soon, with wind chills diving into the double digits, well below zero.

It's not just this area. In browsing the Net, I found a shot taken 30 years ago of a Shropshire village in the U.K. during a cold snap of -26.1 Celsius. The scene on Jan. 11 this year appears to be a beautiful summer's day, with a green field and temperatures of 10.4 C.

Reports of early spring harbingers are being investigated by The Woodland Trust in parts of Britain, including snowdrops, catkins and even frogs. After the past two cold winters, a return to mild, wet winters is being viewed by residents as a gift.

In the U.S., more than 1,000 temperature records were broken in the first few weeks of January.

The force behind the unusually warm weather is La Niña and scant snow cover is contributing. Snow helps to reflect the sun's energy, which adds more moisture to the air and causes cooler conditions. The exposed ground is absorbing solar radiation and feeding warmth back into the air.

How do warmer winter temperatures affect us other than tricking spring-blooming plants to flower ahead of time?

Mongabay.com, one of the world's most popular environmental science and conservation news sites, says that a number of reports over the last decade have shown amphibians, lizards, fish, and birds facing steep population declines across species and continents, providing further evidence that the planet is undergoing a mass extinction.

Now a new study in Biology Letters adds another group of animals to that list: snakes.

Snakes are good friends to gardeners. They eat snails, slugs, spiders and mice.  

Warm winters certainly do have their good points, but it's disturbing to think about the negative repercussions, including the economic impact on the snowmobile and ski industry to name a few.

 

Organizations: Annapolis Royal, The Woodland Trust

Geographic location: Britain, Shropshire, U.S.

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