It’s been a really unusual winter, with almost no snow in the Northeast, and some incredibly warm temperatures. Last winter, at our research site in New Hampshire, the mean air temperature from January to mid-March was -8.5°C (17°F), and with the exception of a single day in late January, temperatures never rose above freezing during the entire first two months of the year. This year, the mean temperature over the same period was -2.9°C (27°F), and the average temperature over the last four weeks has been above freezing.
What will this do for spring phenology? It’s hard to say; the deciduous trees up north are still in a state of dormancy, but I expect it won’t be long before we start to see some buds swelling. The conifers are already starting to get a bit greener a full month earlier than normal. (Their foliage loses some of its vibrancy during the winter, as chlorophyll pigments degrade.)
One thing that I think is great about the PhenoCam network is that it enables citizen scientists to be armchair phenologists. You can travel to different corners of North America to see what the plants are doing, in near real time, all from the comfort of your living room! The green wave of spring is going to be moving north pretty quickly, and through PhenoCam you can watch it spread across the country.
It’s worth checking out what’s happening at the Duke Forest in North Carolina right now. The buds have just started to burst, and it’s pretty neat to browse through the last week’s images and see how rapidly things change from day to day.
Have fun surfing the green wave!