Due to climate change, the Earth is experiencing earlier springs, but nowhere so much and so fast as at high latitudes, new research suggests.
“Yes, spring is arriving earlier, and the Arctic is experiencing greater advances of spring than lower latitudes,” said lead author Eric Post from the University of California, Davis.
“What our study adds is that we connect such differences to more rapid springtime warming at higher latitudes,” Post said.
The study, published in Nature’s online journal Scientific Reports, showed that for every 10 degrees north from the equator you move, spring arrives about four days earlier than it did a decade ago.
This northward increase in the rate of springtime advance is roughly three times greater than what previous studies have indicated.
For example, at southern to mid-latitudes such as Los Angeles, New Orleans, or Dallas, the study suggests spring might be arriving a mere one day earlier than it did a decade ago.
Farther north, in Seattle, Chicago, or Washington DC, it might be arriving four days earlier. And if you live in the Arctic, it might be arriving as much as 16 days earlier.
“This study verifies observations that have been circulating in the scientific community and popular reports for years,” Post said.
For the study, the researchers analysed 743 previously published estimates of the rate of springtime advance from studies spanning 86 years across the Northern Hemisphere, as well as rates of springtime warming over the same range of years and latitude.
Springtime provides important biological cues for many plant and animal species, and it is unclear how an accelerated spring could play out for these species across the planet.
The study noted that impacts to migratory birds are a potential concern. Many birds move from tropical zones to higher latitudes, such as the Arctic, to breed.
“Whatever cues they’re relying on to move northward for spring might not be reliable predictors of food availability once they get there if the onset of spring at these higher latitudes is amplified by future warming,” Post said.