Tuesday, March 20, 2012
2012 heat wave: Spring has never been so early here!
On the right you see a bouquet of budding twigs that include (from left to right) forsythia, false spirea, pussy willows and black maple. For many years it has been our custom to cut a bouquet like this for Passover, then watch as the buds slowly open during the eight days of the festival. Well, this year we are going to have to do something different, because Passover is still almost three weeks away and buds are swelling now.
Nor are budding trees the only early signs of spring. The Canada geese are back, along with robins, starlings, red-wing blackbirds, song sparrows, juncos, mourning doves, and the phoebe who nests in the rafters of our shed each year. Pheasants are calling, grouse are drumming, and last night -- believe it or not -- I heard spring peeper frogs and the ones we call "clacking frogs" calling in the marsh across the road. This is the absolute earliest that any of this has happened here as far as I can remember.
Those swelling maple buds meant that I didn't get any maple syrup. Normally you start tapping the trees when the days are around 40 degrees and the nights are still below freezing. But when the temperature soars into the high 70s like it has done this March (smashing local records for days in a row), the nights stay warm, the trees bud out, and the sap flow stops. Everybody I've talked to around here says the same thing: Their maple trees dried up overnight. I never even bothered to tap mine. Which is probably just as well, because we are also in a drought. All of our snow seems to have moved way down south. Arizona is getting buried, while Minnesota stays high and dry. We only got one decent snowstorm here all winter, and within days it had melted away. Yesterday we got a nice steady rain, which was a good thing, because with all that dried grass around, not to mention some very early lightning storms, the fire danger was extremely high.
All of which adds up to one thing: Climate change is real, and it is here.