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Spring arrives 2 weeks earlier in Arctic due to climate change

Spring arriving 2 weeks earlier in Arctic due to climate change

Spring arrives 2 weeks earlier in Arctic due to climate change

June 19, 2007

Arctic summers are arriving two weeks earlier than just a decade ago reports a study published the June 19th issue of Current Biology.

The research, based on phenology–the study of the timing of familiar signs of spring seen in plants, insects, birds, and other species–found that the arrival of spring is advancing at 14.5 days per decade.

“Despite uncertainties in the magnitude of expected global warming over the next century, one consistent feature of extant and projected changes is that Arctic environments are and will be exposed to the greatest warming,” said Dr. Toke T. Høye of the National Environmental Research Institute, University of Aarhus, Denmark. “Our study confirms what many people already think, that the seasons are changing and it is not just one or two warm years but a strong trend seen over a decade.”

“We were particularly surprised to see that the trends were so strong when considering that the entire summer is very short in the High Arctic—with just three to four months from snowmelt to freeze up at our Zackenberg study site in northeast Greenland.”

Midnight sun on the Zackenberg mountain, Northeast Greenland. Photo Credit: Toke T. Høye

The researchers found a high degree of variation in response to climate shifts but noted that species most affected seemed to be those living in areas where the snow melts later in the year.

The new study adds to a growing body of work suggesting that climate change is already causing significant shifts in seasonality. Last August an analysis of 125,000 studies involving 561 species found that spring is beginning on average six to eight days earlier than it did 30 years ago. The researchers said that in countries where rapid increases in temperature have occurred, like the Arctic, “that figure is almost doubled.”

CITATION: Toke T. Høye, Eric Post, Hans Meltofte, Niels M. Schmidt, and Mads C. Forchhammer (2007). Rapid advancement of spring in the High Arctic. Current Biology Vol 17 No 12

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