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Study Says ‘Vernal Window’ Opening Earlier, Longer: Is Spring Getting Longer?

18 March 2017, 10:32 am EDT By Kalyan Kumar Tech Times
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The advent of spring heralds many changes such as a rising temperature, the melting of ice, and the blooming of flowers. This transition from winter to the growing season is called the "vernal window" by scientists.

According to a new study conducted led by researchers at the University of New Hampshire, there is an early opening of the vernal window and the phase may last longer. This indicates that there will be more spring days than usual.

The study spotted many changes in the transitory duration of the vernal window while probing the possible reasons for it.

Signs Of Spring

"Historically, the transition into spring is comparatively shorter than other seasons," says Alexandra Contosta, an assistant professor at the Earth Systems Research Center at the University of New Hampshire.

Spring is marked by the melting of snow and more water moving through aquatic systems, nutrients flowing through that water, soils getting warm, and buds breaking on trees, Contosta adds.

It is like an awakening of sorts and gives the feeling that spring is happening so quickly and dramatically.

The signs of spring don't seem to be happening rapidly now, however. Contosta and her team say that climate change is altering the timing and duration of the vernal window.

The researchers delved into the linkage between warmer winters with less snow, a longer lag between spring events, and an extended transition from winter to spring to understand how climate change alters the vernal window. Their findings were published in the journal Global Change Biology.

Longer Spring And Decline Of Northern Hemisphere Snow Cover

To see how the declining snow cover in the Northern Hemisphere influences the early opening of the vernal window, Contosta and her team used data from the New Hampshire EPSCoR network. They also monitored snow levels and forest covers for a period of three years and supplemented it with data on precipitation and information gleaned by satellites.

In the research, a detailed study was made on dates connected with events that coincide with the seasonal changes such as snow melting, the budding of leaves in trees, and the time period between various events.

According to experts, changes in the spring timetable trigger ecological, social, and economic consequences. These aspects are under investigation by Contosta's team.

Spring's Effect On Crops

Many activities in agriculture and fisheries are dependent on the climate conditions during springtime. When spring stays longer, the mud season will also extend, requiring more road repairs and limitations in truck weight.

Corresponding changes in the span of the sugar maple season and changes in bird migration trends will be the other fallouts.

In western New York, spring's early arrival is apparent in blossoms all around. Its impact on the local growing season was commented on by Eric Randall, a professor emeritus at Buffalo State College.

"We've just come off the warmest February in western New York in recorded times, since the 1880s. Lake Erie is free of ice. They've taken the Ice Boom out. That is not common," Randall says.

Randall says crops are affected by the mild winter weather that has already hit vernal crops.

Regarding the impact on wheat crops planted during the fall, the poor snow cover and little frost on the ground will be triggering harmful plant insects across western New York, adds Randall.

He also sees a change in pattern with regard to birds and animals. Randall says he heard the sounds of killdeers already and skunks are running.

Randall notes that there are many attributes associated with temperature on crops, ranging from snow cover to ice formation.

According to Randall, it is too early to say the early spring or abnormal weather is a result of climate change. But he is sure "something's happening" and advises to wait and watch until the fall before passing a comment about the mild winter's effect on the upcoming growing season.

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