As much as we're enjoying these halcyon early spring days of bare legs and light breezes, perfect al fresco weather, and walking jacketless through the park, we are also worried. Worried about what it means. Worried about what our perfect March (weather people say it will be 76 degrees in New York on Thursday, and 77 in Washington) will mean once we reach June. After all, we've still got three months, and the cherry blossoms are already abloom ahead of their normal April appearance.
By August will we be a dried up old wreck? Or will it be snowing? What are the repercussions of such an early spring, or, even prior to that, a virtually snowless winter?
Allergies. All those blooms on trees are gorgeous, just gorgeous, until your eyes are swelled shut and you can't really see said blooms. That's when you curse tree pollen and the spring that came so early you didn't have time to refill your Zyrtec prescription. According to Glenn Silber, an allergist with the Allergy and Asthma Center of Central Maryland, quoted in the Carroll County Times, “Patients are symptomatic earlier this year than in years gone by." Oh, so that's what that is. Check your pollen levels here, in between sneezes. Down in the Deep South, it sounds pretty brutal already. Dr. Weily Soong, an allergist at the Alabama Allergy & Asthma Center told The Birmingham News, "All of that pine pollen is landing inside your nose, just like it's landing on your car windshield. It's literally like throwing a whole bunch of sand in your face. Your nose has to clean it out with mucus, just like the windshield fluid on your car." Ew. Researchers at the State University of New York are, in fact, predicting "a long and intense allergy season." Ragweed forever.
Bugs. Oh bugs. True story: Your correspondent found a mosquito in her baby bok choy the other day. (She washed it down the drain.) But still. Portents. There are portents. And, in fact, officials say that a mild winter plus early season warmth does tend to bring the bugs out early. However, "it doesn't mean we'll have a swarm this summer" -- necessarily. "'They're dependent upon humidity. They're dependent upon vegetation. If we really have a dry year, then it will affect their population significantly. If we have a wet year then many of them will survive,' said Dan Nichols, master gardener from Sioux City" to KTIV.com. What a wonderful choice: Bugs or droughts? (See below.)
Produce season is weird. Your local farmer's market may be a little different this year. While strawberries usually get ripe between May and June, you might see them in late April. And "peaches should be ripe in June, about a month earlier than usual," according to the Carroll County Times. The parsnip season may also be quite short. Get ready for the vegetable market to consist only of apples and the occasional potato by August. Or, mushrooms in March, in Michigan. Go, now!
Plants and animals may be in danger. Generally, expect the unexpected. Says biologist Donald J. Leopold somewhat concerningly in a SUNY release, "When the weather is really altered from typical conditions, there are always winners and losers among all types of both plants and animals. With the many plant and animal species in the East, some will benefit and some will be adversely impacted with these unusually warm conditions." The AP noted back in 2007 that some animal responses to unseasonable warmth included bears not hibernating, squirrels mating early, and ducks and geese deciding to fly south for the winter later. Or, maybe, not at all. Snowshoe hares still change color from brown to white, which means they may be more easily eaten by predators, their camouflage no longer that effective. As for human animals, we should be more concerned about Lyme disease, since we're outside more.
Droughts. “Although it is not a problem yet, we are unusually susceptible to drought conditions as we head into the spring and early summer if we don’t get some sort of pattern change going forward over the next couple of months” said Meteorologist Dan Leonard of Weather Services International to CBS. (Droughts or bugs? This is so unfair.)
Syrup shortages. When you're cooking up those pancakes to eat on your deck (you have a deck?) be not so content. Maple trees need the temperature to drop below freezing at night to produce sap, and, well, that's not really been happening. According to Hillary Nelson, writing for the Concord Monitor, "My brother and sister-in-law are guessing they'll make only half as much syrup as they produce in a normal year, though what they have produced is gorgeous -- buttery flavored and amber." Get the good stuff while you can.
Milk excesses. Cows in Iowa are producing more milk for some reason that dairymen are attributing to the weather. "Although Iowa had about 3,000 fewer milk cows in February of this year than last, the warmer-than-usual weather inspired state’s cows to produce 5.9 percent more milk than in the colder February of 2011, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture," writes Dan Piller in the Des Moines Register. Milk handlers are trying to find manufacturing homes for all the extra milk. Despite that, retail milk prices are up 10 percent in February, according to the USDA.
Summer accidents. We bet you didn't even know these existed, but they do. "Trauma season" typically starts in April, but it's on already, with doctors seeing trauma cases ratchet up with the nice weather. That means car and motorcycle crashes, ATV accidents, and accidents sustained from various outdoor recreational activities (wear a helmet!). In a release from the Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Dr. Rick Miller, who runs trauma and surgical critical care, said, "As soon as the weather gets nice, our incidence of trauma cases increases exponentially." Stabbings and shootings also go up, presumably because more people are outside. Nice weather is dangerous.
Records. (Or, heat waves.) A little healthy competition between states is a good thing, no? Gets the blood flowing? By July of last year we'd reached a record-setting 104 degrees in New York City and 108 degrees in Newark. It was an exceptional heat wave across the Northeast in terms of strength as well as "breadth and duration," and "to those out in the streets, it felt more like being licked by a big, swampy monster," writes Elizabeth Harris in The New York Times. Side effect of heat waves: Great similes, along with free license to sip all the icy beverages you can withstand. Let us not forget that that was neither the first nor the last record-setting heat of the year. Let's see how we do this year, kids.
Confusion. Do we call this "climate change" or "global warming" or a "La Niña effect?" How angry do we get with people who call it none of those things? Are we happy or sad about all of this great weather? Will there be a run on Zyrtec? A run on SPF? A run on air conditioners? How long will talking about how long the unseasonably warm weather will last even be interesting? These are just some of the questions we will be asking ourselves for the forseeably beautiful future. Plus, our air conditioner bills are bound to be huge.
All that's to say...go out and enjoy yourself. It's shaping up to be a gorgeous day.