SEASONS UNHINGED IN ENGLAND

20 03 2008

from the UK Independent:

  Martin Warren

A red admiral, normally seen in Britain in summer, was photographed in February among snowdrops

…many of what used to be thought of as the traditional signs of spring are happening very much earlier, causing primroses, for example, spring flowers par excellence, to bloom in some parts of the country as early as November. Other traditional spring plants, such as dog’s mercury and the lesser celandine (a favourite of Wordsworth’s) can be seen in January rather than March.

And in what is perhaps an even more vivid change, dandelions and daisies, which used to come into flower in spring on lawns (where they were permitted), now flower in many places all winter long.

Insects are responding similarly. A number of butterflies that overwinter as hibernating adults can now be seen in January rather than March or April, including the peacock and the comma, and especially the red admiral.

This last species used to be a spring migrant from the Continent but, in the recent warmer winters, it has begun to overwinter here.

Bumblebees have similarly become visible in mid-winter, and frogspawn, usually laid about March, can be seen in December in the South-west and south Wales.

The changes and many others have been monitored in detail because in Britain there has been a renewal of the old discipline of phenology, or the study of the timings of natural events, which was favoured by the Victorians but largely abandoned by the 1950s.

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2 responses

25 03 2008
Nommo

It is a bit confusing isn’t it? We had snow this Easter weekend here in the SW UK – and yet the daffodils have been out for over a month… the snowdrops have finished. I was worried for the little spring chicks freezing in their nests this weekend!

The fact that overall temperature trends are rising will not stop the annual seasonal fluctuations we will always experience. Apparently people have been complaining about the lack of distinction between seasons for decades in the UK…

25 03 2008
brothermartin

Here in Tennessee, we are coming to a somewhat normal winter’s end, with pears just beginnng to bloom at the end of March. But the winter was not normal. Until the last few years, one could expect weeks when the temperature did not go above freezing, when snow would stay on the ground, and plenty of nights when the temperature would drop below 0F. We had three snows this winter, only one of which lasted twenty-four hours, and only one night of high single-digit temperatures. This is typical of recent winters. Days that are in the forties F bring nights in the thirties, when “in the old days” they would have brought nights in the twenties. This is consistent with the global warming pattern of warmer night time temperatures. I’m wondering what the summer will bring….we’ll find out soon enough!

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