Good news! Global temperature modeling says U.S. winter will be over sooner in the future

From the INSTITUTE OF PHYSICS and the “back to modeling the future” department: Spring to come 3 weeks earlier to the United States

Scientists have projected that the onset of spring plant growth will shift by a median of 3 weeks earlier over the next century, as a result of rising global temperatures

spring-flowers

Frightening scenes like this one may soon be 3 weeks early in the USA.

The results, published today (Wednesday 14th October), in the journal Environmental Research Letters, have long term implications for the growing season of plants and the relationship between plants and the animals that depend upon them.

The researchers, based at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, US, applied the extended Spring Indices to predict the dates of leaf and flower emergence based on day length. These general models capture the phenology of many plant species.

Their results show particularly rapid shifts in plant phenology in the Pacific Northwest and Mountainous regions of the western US, with smaller shifts in southern areas, where spring already arrives early.

“Our projections show that winter will be shorter – which sound greats great for those of us in Wisconsin” explains Andrew Allstadt, an author on the paper. “But long distance migratory birds, for example, time their migration based on day length in their winter range. They may arrive in their breeding ground to find that the plant resources that they require are already gone.”

The researchers also investigated so-called ‘false springs’ – when freezing temperatures return after spring plant growth has begun. They showed that these events will decrease in most locations. However a large area of the western Great Plains is projected to see an increase in false springs. “This is important as false springs can damage plant production cycles in natural and agricultural systems” continues Allstadt. “In some cases, an entire crop can be lost.”

These researchers are working on a NASA Biodiversity Grant, with the goal of assisting people working in conservation of public land in the US. As such, the researchers have provided much of their data freely on their website: http://silvis.forest.wisc.edu/

“We are expanding our research to cover all kinds of extreme weather, including droughts and heat waves” concluded Allstadt. “We are particularly interested in how these affect bird populations in wildlife refuges.”

###

As is typical for “science by press releases”, they don’t bother to mention the name of the study, which is pretty lame for IOP since they not only issued the press release, but they published the study too. So, I looked it up; it’s more RCP8.5 modeling madness.

On the plus side, the authors made everything open source, which is commendable. But what you don’t see in the press release is an admission of uncertainty; like the late great Yogi Berra’s famous line “It’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future.“, they concede “…global climate change may have complex and spatially variable effects on spring onset and false springs, making local predictions of change difficult” .

I find this map they provide interesting in the context of the press release since it seems a good part of the middle U.S. might not see that 3 week earlier onset by 2100.

US-spring-onset-2100

Figure 3. Spring onset duration, measured as the number of days between spring onset defined by leaf out and by first bloom. (a) Spring onset duration during the historical period. (b) Change in spring onset duration by the end of the century time period for the RCP8.5 scenario.

See: http://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/1748-9326/10/10/104008

Spring plant phenology and false springs in the conterminous US during the 21st century

Andrew J Allstadt, Stephen J Vavrus, Patricia J Heglund, Anna M Pidgeon, Wayne E Thogmartin and Volker C Radeloff

Abstract:

The onset of spring plant growth has shifted earlier in the year over the past several decades due to rising global temperatures. Earlier spring onset may cause phenological mismatches between the availability of plant resources and dependent animals, and potentially lead to more false springs, when subsequent freezing temperatures damage new plant growth. We used the extended spring indices to project changes in spring onset, defined by leaf out and by first bloom, and predicted false springs until 2100 in the conterminous United States (US) using statistically-downscaled climate projections from the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project 5 ensemble. Averaged over our study region, the median shift in spring onset was 23 days earlier in the Representative Concentration Pathway 8.5 scenario with particularly large shifts in the Western US and the Great Plains. Spatial variation in phenology was due to the influence of short-term temperature changes around the time of spring onset versus season-long accumulation of warm temperatures. False spring risk increased in the Great Plains and portions of the Midwest, but remained constant or decreased elsewhere. We conclude that global climate change may have complex and spatially variable effects on spring onset and false springs, making local predictions of change difficult.

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71 thoughts on “Good news! Global temperature modeling says U.S. winter will be over sooner in the future

    • This year spring didn’t get here until damn near MAY in New England. But keep it a secret that Warm is Good, that’s not what the alarm-mongers want to hear.

      • North of you, up in Caribou, Maine, they had their shortest snow-free period on record this past summer. May 24-October 8 were all they could manage, in terms of a snow-free period. (Their records go back to 1939.)
        In Romania it is snowing while the leaves are still green. In England the arctic swans have arrived earlier this year than ever recorded, (since they started keeping records at a particular reserve in 1963.)
        https://sunriseswansong.wordpress.com/2015/10/13/romanians-and-british-agree-winter-one-month-early/
        It sounds to me like the cold is gathering its armies to go howling into Paris, right when the Alarmists have their meeting. But I don’t suppose they’ll notice. Those folk don’t seem to ever look out their windows.

      • Caleb,
        Hey – four full months (and some days) snow-free!
        Oh wow, way up there in the North.
        Oh.
        Uhhhh.
        Coordinates: 46°51′49″N 67°59′53″W [per Wikipedia, which, yeah, even I can edit] – that’s well south of Paris and Munich, never mind the southern tentacles of London.
        As recently as 2010, we here, in Southern Croydon borough, had snow lying [in diminishing piles, true] throughout December.
        Auto

      • Caleb there was a letter in the Daily Telegraph of the 14th Oct from someone telling of bee colonies in South Yorkshire shutting down their hives 6 weeks ago to get ready for winter. I don’t see the politicos noticing any of this if they didn’t notice the first snow in many years falling outside Parliament as they passed the Climate Change Act, I think the same will happen in Paris.
        James Bull

      • Caleb: A friend who grew up in Maine used to describe the climate there as nine months of winter and three months of tough sledding.

    • Amazing what the ways the government finds to pour money down the drain. Attach “Climate Change” to any study and funding is guaranteed.
      It makes tons of sense however, the government can’t solve today’s problems, so they will pretend to be solving problems 100 years in the future.

      • The people in 100 years will be ill-equipped to deal with their own problems.
        We must solve their problems now, on their behalf.
        According to my model projections, in 2100, everyone will have a Ph.D. in environmental science.
        In other words, we’re doomed.

  1. Gee … one would think that False Springs are something new, by the wording of this piece. NOT. Happens all the time. Weather (and yes, climate) is chaotic. Nothing new here.
    IF the researcher’s results actually come to materialize, the production of foodstuffs will increase with the earlier onset of ‘safe planting season’. The northermost line of seeding plant ‘X’ with an expectation of harvesting it will also rise (toward the pole(s)). The increased CO₂ will fertilize C–3 plant growth (AKA “cereals” and many foodstuffs), so each hectare may well produce more food for a given aliquot of fertilizer.
    I’m sorry, but I’m failing to see a downside.
    • More food• More arable land• Lower winter heating bills• Fewer ice-and-snow related accidents
    GoatGuy

    • They also assume that, because plants grow faster and bigger, nutrients are decreased. Yes, they are, but only in concentration, as there is a need for a certain amount of nutrients per plant. As they grow faster, they make more starch per nutrient, so pound for pound there is indeed less nutrients in the faster growing product. That’s life, so deal with it. Their hidden message is that we have to decrease atmospheric CO2 concentrations to increase the nutrient concentration by raising carbon-starved plants.

  2. That’s good news. Last Feb was the 4th coldest in 125 yrs of records here. Don’t need no stinkin’ frigid Februarys any more.

    • And Bastardi says this Jan, Feb March will be equally frigid. He nailed it last year…my money is with him.

  3. Andrew Allstadt, an author on the paper wrote.
    “But long distance migratory birds, for example, time their migration based on day length in their winter range. They may arrive in their breeding ground to find that the plant resources that they require are already gone.”
    This is of course incorrect. As any bird watcher knows bird migration timing is influenced by many factors which include day length AND local climate conditions.
    The House Martins that nest in summer in my garden are arriving later and heading back several days earlier than they did 10 years ago as the local climate has got colder and the insects they feed on became scarcer. The winter migrating birds such as Brent Geese which normally arrive in November arrived last week due to the early winter cold in Russia and Central Europe.
    But hey why let facts get in the way of computer models.

    • The BBC reported the first Siberian Swan arrived earlier this year than ever recorded (but records only go back to 1963.) Apparently they don’t migrate due to the position of the sun, but how cold their butts are. When their posteriors are about to get frozen and affix them to the surface of a pond for the duration of a winter, they say to each other, “Lets get our a**es out of here.”
      In other words, bird brains are smarter than some climate scientists.

    • @ Keith Willshaw
      Incorrect is right, in reference to this quote:
      “But long distance migratory birds, for example, time their migration based on day length in their winter range. They may arrive in their breeding ground to find that the plant resources that they require are already gone.
      The length of daylight hours is what “triggers” the start of their migration, be it to or from their more northern breeding ground. And the local weather conditions and/or available food sources along their migration route will determine their “rate of migration”.
      And concerning these 2 quotes from the article:

      Scientists have projected that the onset of spring plant growth will shift by a median of 3 weeks earlier over the next century, as a result of rising global temperatures
      These general models capture the phenology of many plant species.

      Yes, earlier warm temperatures means earlier growth for many plant species, but not all species. The growth of many species also depends upon the length of daylight hours, thus warm temperatures 3 weeks earlier won’t have the same effect on them. So, if the migratory birds get there “3 weeks earlier” they still might go hungry.

    • And of course, once the birds land somewhere at the end of their migration, they are incapable of taking off again and finding a place where there is food. That’s because before men started putting CO2 in the air, the exact numbers and types of food plants never changed in all locations.

  4. I would think that “last frost date” would be well recorded historically, and it would be interesting to see how that has changed at some locations since, say, 1900. I have no idea where to find that data, but I’m sure someone out there is more resourceful than I.

    • I know the last frost date isn’t the same as the onset of spring, but that was what came to my mind as significant. 2014 had the last frost in mid-June here in Western Colorado. That was the first year in the last 24 years living at the same location that the final frost was later than June 1st.

  5. Habitual flower growers in the UK noted several years ago that flowers were blooming two weeks earlier than they did in the mid-20th century. But, there was no warming detected in the temperature record to account for this change. It turns out that higher CO2 makes plants more tolerant of both high and low temperatures as fellas more efficient with water transpiration and more efficient with nutrients.
    Higher CO2 allowed the UK flowers to bud and bloom two weeks earlier, regardless of the temperature.
    And all the members of a species that relies on a given plant do not act exactly the same, which means that some animals, such as birds, will migrate earlier and some later than the average, such that some of them will get what they need from the plants and natural selection will select for that variety of bird.
    We know there have been a number of glacial-interglacial cycles in the last 800K years. Are we to assume that none of these species survived those huge climate swings, just like the polar bear?

  6. This a case where the specificity of the research and the odd confidence in the detail of the assertions cloud the broader reality that there is a 18 year pause in warming. So none of this will happen.
    I am a bit sorry to prick the birthday balloon here but with a pause in warming, and stable polar ice volume, and stable sea levels, isn’t this just a diversion? Isn’t this a case where the excruciating detail belies the measured data?

  7. Their projections are consistent with urban heat island effects: later Autumns, milder Winters, earlier Springs. These shifts have been occurring for decades.

  8. No, no, no. It’s has to be “worse than we thought.”
    I’ve got it! “Allergy sufferers could possibly be affected up to 3 weeks more per year, according to model projections.”

  9. Just what we needed. Another person playing make-believe and adding another “if it’s warmer-it will be warmer” blockbuster tautology to the thousands of other papers saying the exact same thing. Not only that, but as a few comments have pointed out, they don’t even play make- believe very well.
    So many actual problems require money and yet these “what would the world be like if?” studies still get money.
    The people that give these grants out have no sense and no conscience.

  10. If (Big IF) this true, the additional Northern Hemisphere (NH) growing season length will be sufficient to not just put annual atmospheric pCO2 growth in check but to put CO2 on a downward trajectory.
    This is due to kinetics of the NH CO2 sinks, which currently kick into high gear May15 to Sept 15; which coincides and delineates the primary NH growing season Take 3 weeks from the CO2 source growth (cold weeks) and give it to CO2 sinks as warmer growing weeks, and the average annual 2.2 (+/- 0.3) ppm increase turns to an annual average decrease.

      • That’s a chemical reaction principle. After 4 Gy, the Earth’s biosphere-climate system has evolved to operate on strong negative feedback’s at all timescales. We see this in the ocean’s dilution of organic carbon to levels just below that required for microbial consumption. Seawater microorganism metabolism keeps the available carbon food substrates at biological minimum dilutions, a simple regulatory feedback process.


        http://www.sciencemag.org/content/348/6232/331.abstract?
        Abstract
        Oceanic dissolved organic carbon (DOC) is the second largest reservoir of organic carbon in the biosphere. About 72% of the global DOC inventory is stored in deep oceanic layers for years to centuries, supporting the current view that it consists of materials resistant to microbial degradation. An alternative hypothesis is that deep-water DOC consists of many different, intrinsically labile compounds at concentrations too low to compensate for the metabolic costs associated to their utilization. Here, we present experimental evidence showing that low concentrations rather than recalcitrance preclude consumption of a substantial fraction of DOC, leading to slow microbial growth in the deep ocean. These findings demonstrate an alternative mechanism for the long-term storage of labile DOC in the deep ocean, which has been hitherto largely ignored.”

        While the above article concerns DOC in the oceans, an analogous process likely occurs with inorganic carbon, namely CO2. We already have documented a steady greening of the global biosphere over the last 40 years. This greening operates on the annual seasonal growing cycle timescale at the temperate and higher latitudes. The additional CO2 in the atmosphere also operates on longer time scales such as slowly advancing tree lines at high latitudes and alpine altitudes to pull more of the elevated pCO2. If regional temps respond sufficiently upward (say, as result of GHG effects), then growing seasons lengthen as well, primarily the spring-time start of growth corresponding to an earlier last freeze, upper soil layer thaw.

    • wouldn’t more dark green vegetation instead of snow cover reduce albedo = cooling, but rotting vegetation = more methane and CO2 gasses (warming, if there is a such thing ) with the end result no change, back to square one ? just wondering ….

    • @ joelobryan

      This is due to kinetics of the NH CO2 sinks, which currently kick into high gear May15 to Sept 15; which coincides and delineates the primary NH growing season

      But but, but, …. due to kinetics of the NH CO2 sources (microbial, insectual), which currently kick into high gear April 1st thru Sept 30th; overshadow and compensate for the majority of the reduction due to NH CO2 sinks during the growing season.
      Also, due to kinetics of other NH CO2 sources, ….. water [H2O] impoundments (lakes, rivers & oceans), ….. which currently kick into high gear June 1st thru August 31st; also adds to said overshadowing and compensating for said reduction due to NH CO2 sinks during the growing season. [Source references: Bacteriology 101; Botany 101]

  11. Presumably they took Sunlight into consideration as it is sunshine that plays a major role in the start and end of the growing season. Cold spring temperatures are, oddly enough related to the amount of sun a specific area gets and not the volume of CO2

    • Grasslands growing season length though is strongly dependent on last freeze (Springtime) and first freeze (Fall). Deciduous trees budding of leaves timing will also respond to warmer springs, as seen in the well documented variability in cherry blossom bloom dates.

    • Actually the start of the growing season is related mostly to ground temperature. Several things influence that but the Earths tilt plays the most part. Longer and more direct sunlight (not air temperature.). I doubt if CO2 changes that.

  12. Growing Degree Days, since this is based on real data, would be interesting to study historically to see if any shift like this article is projecting has been occurring. NOAA has a very interesting site on growing degree days but nothing that graphs trends. They have lots of raw data available. Wouldn’t this be interesting to graph over time and see the trends?
    I’m assuming NOAA doesn’t graph this because it wouldn’t support the panic MEME in place. (much like the national park server no longer has the bit about the Glaciers in Glacier National Park being only 3k years old.)

    • ferd berple
      October 14, 2015 at 9:45 am
      A lot of people have noticed that trend. Same thing in Canada from the 49th to 82N. A number of folks have commented on that here before. Could be UHI, clouds or even GHG’s according to some folks. Kind of like the 9/11 study on the effect of contrails. I have looked at quite a few locations and it seems like extremes (high and low) have moderated over the last 125+ years (at least where I have looked). It appears the Mean Temperature has increased because of LESS COLD, not because it is getting warmer. Why? I dunno, just looking at the Environment Canada publicly available data and almost every location (but not all) shows this same trend.
      eg:
      82 N https://www.dropbox.com/s/97o461le8n5v78e/AlertJanTrend.tiff?dl=0
      49 N https://www.dropbox.com/s/jv5iidipp7r17px/Grand%20Forks%20Max_Min%20_html_m79e96d7.jpg?dl=0
      As for the growing season, every year I hear people around here saying they can plant earlier, and every year we get snow somewhere on the May 24th long weekend in “Sunny Alberta”. Had over an inch of snow here October 3rd but is has melted. High to day was around 20C but the forecast tonight is for -4C. We won’t see 20 again now till next spring.

  13. Are these fools trying to convince us that a longer growing season is a catastrophe? That animals and plants won’t adapt to a gradual, miniscule change to a warmer environment? These idiots jumped the shark a long time ago on early spring BS. The idiot in chief feels that a Russian takeover in the Middle East is not a problem, but an early spring will be the doom of us all. God help us.

    • Silly , don’t you know ?? It’s much braver to fight an imaginary enemy than a real one !!!! Just ask any unicorn you happen to run across !!!

    • There is one thing that is certain , the Russians cannot possibly do as much damage and be so obviously utterly incompetent as the USA has displayed in its actions in the Middle East over the last 15 years .

  14. I guess I will be able to plant my spring garden three weeks early here in Hawaii. Thank goodness for CO2. It has to be pretty powerful stuff to shift the equinox like that.
    /sarc

  15. Most “climate research” reminds me of the average “cancer research.” You know, pick anything you like and prove that it is so. Does it help “solve” the problem? No, but we now know that there are at least 10,000 different papers proving “something” that they relate to climate, just as we have 100,000 different research grants that have been spent proving “something” causes or facilitates cancer while not finding one damn thing that cures it.

  16. Earlier spring and shorter winter ? The trend of the last 18 years indicates that the winters are getting colder especially December and show no shortening trend . March is getting warmer but APRIL and MAY are getting colder, so the spring gets warm early but only for a month.
    WINTER (-1.45 F/DECADE) – DECLINING
    DEC -0.42F/decade (declining)
    JAN -1.21 F decade (declining)
    FEB -2.76 F/decade (declining)
    SPRING (+0.11 F / DECADE-WARMING (FLAT)
    MAR +0.83 F/ decade (rising)
    APRIL -0.07 F /decade (declining)
    MAY -0.46 F/decade (declining)
    All data per CLIMATE AT A GLANCE

    • I meant to say ” that the winters are getting colder especially during February , the end of the winter, so the probability of winters getting shorter in the near term is very unlikely. Matter of fact, the trend of the temperature anomalies since 1998 for first 6 months of the year ( jan-june ) is cooling at 0.40 C/decade . so the probability of a shorter winter and earlier spring is low during upcoming cool phase of the climate cycle.( next 30-40 years ) Most of us do not care about 2100 as we will not be around

  17. Hypothetical warmth earlier versus warmth later.
    Every year of my 9 adult years living in upstate NY, long about late February, I would wish for warmth earlier.
    John

  18. Only a few months ago there was a study that said trees are leafing out later in the spring to protect from late frost which apparently had become more unpredictable due to global warming.

  19. We MUST take money out of the equation to get a realistic study of anything !! Science has been corrupted by MONEY !! Best way to start, give EQUAL amounts to pro and con views, then judge the results !!

  20. “We conclude that global climate change may have complex and spatially variable effects on spring onset and false springs, making local predictions of change difficult.”
    How do I get a job like this? Seriously.

  21. “Scientists have projected that the onset of spring plant growth will shift by a median of 3 weeks earlier over the next century, as a result of rising global temperatures,”
    This is what everyone wants; a shorter winter, but where, oh, where is that “rising temperature”.

  22. I remember back maybe twenty years ago seeing stories in the press (from England I think) about spring coming so many days earlier every year due to global warming. That was my first exposure to what would now be called “Climate Change”. I took it for granted it was true at the time.
    After twenty years I suppose Spring should be coming in Autumn by now.

  23. So how did these plants and beasties survive the medieval warming period? We do know that as a species we survived and flourished in former warmer climate optimums. Because I know something of the cooling periods Dark Ages and Little Ice Ages and the suffering. I am absolutely amazed that this improvement in the habitability of the climate since the misery of the Little Ice Age is presented as fearsome or alarming and with out appropriate climate perspective by researchers. Given that the populations exploded in the Medieval Warming Period and crashed in the Little Ice Age don’t you think the narrative should change to praying for better habitability? .

  24. I designed a model to study changes in the time of sunrise and sunset. I tested my model using data from the months of April and May and discovered that if trends continue, by about March of 2016 the sun will rise before it sets, leaving us with no night. Shocked at my findings, I ran the numbers again using the data from July and August. This time it told me that, according to the trend, the days will get shorter and shorter until about April of next year when there will be no daylight at all. I’m not sure what to make of this contradictory model output, but I’m sure it can’t be the result of natural cycles. If climate scientists can ignore the possibility of natural cycles in their climate models, why shouldn’t I ignore them in my model?

  25. Didn’t someone once propose some theory in which birds that migrate at the wrong time are at a marginal disadvantage and tend to be less successful than other birds which turn up at precisely the ideal time?
    I forget the exact details – something to do with selection according to fitness.
    It was that same bloke who pointed out – the fact that coral atolls happen to be at just above sea level can’t be a complete bleedin’ coincidence, can it?
    (Head collides with desk, in sheer frustration.)

  26. And in the UK the Bewick Swan has arrived 25days early. This Siberian species heralds the start of winter.

  27. Winter will be over sooner? No. Winter begins at the Winter Solstice and ends at the Vernal Equinox.

  28. Since the time of perihelion (and aphelion) gets a few hours earlier each year wouldn’t the onset of meteorological season change subtlely over time? 7% higher insolation must effect temperature a tiny bit. I think more than the CO2 level. Not sarc, just an observation.

  29. If true, wouldn’t that mean a longer growing season? That’s a good thing – isn’t it? More food from the Bread Basket of the world? Priceless!

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