Bloom and doom

Spring just keeps getting earlier. Guess what’s behind it?

In some parts of the country, the season just breezed in three weeks ahead of schedule. Balmy weather may seem like more good news after an already unseasonably warm winter, but pause a beat before you reach for your flip-flops.

According to the “spring index,” a long-term data set which tracks the start of the season from year-to-year, spring is showing up earlier and earlier across the United States.

The culprit behind the trend? Climate change. And it’s bringing a batch of nasty consequences. Early warmth means early pests, like ticks and mosquitoes, and a longer, rougher allergy season. Agriculture and tourism can be thrown off, too. Washington D.C.’s cherry blossoms usually draw crowds in April, for instance, but they’re projected to peak three weeks early this year.

Spring isn’t shifting smoothly, either. It’s changing in fits and starts. Eggs are hatching and trees are losing their leaves, but temperatures could easily plunge again, with disastrous consequences for new baby animals and plants.

Play this out another 80 years, and it’s easy to imagine a world out of sync. Sure, your picnic in December sounds nice. But bees could lose their wildflowers, and groundhogs may never see their shadows again.