Sunday, 31 January 2016

Climate change: 'season creep' and an early spring

Last week's 'Winterwatch' on BBC2 from the Cairngorms went dramatically from spring to winter in just a few days:
BBC Two - Winterwatch

This is due to something called 'season creep':
Season creep - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

This story was reported on Winterwatch and throughout the British media last week:

More Than 600 Plant Species Flowering At The Wrong Time Because Of Confusing Winter Conditions

By Alyssa Navarro, Tech Times | January 27, 9:05 AM

An unusual number of plant species flowering across Britain and Ireland has left botanists astonished. From daisies to the red campion, experts recorded flowers that bloomed at the wrong time due to confusing weather conditions.(Photo : Paul Reynolds | Flickr)
In the United Kingdom, particularly in Greater London, the warmest winter solstice was recorded on December 22, 2015.
MeteoGroup, a group of forecasters, recorded temperatures of 14.3 degrees Celsius or 58 degrees Fahrenheit during the morning of that day. The temperature was predicted to last until Christmas Eve.
Why is it important? It's because the incident had set off an early "explosion" of flowering plant species at the wrong time.
A major survey across Britain and Ireland revealed that more than 600 species of British wildflowers had unusually bloomed on New Year's Day 2016.
An Astonishing Number Of Blooming Flowers
In a typical cold winter, experts would expect no more than 20 to 30 types of wild plants to be in bloom at the end of the year. These plant species include dandelion, gorse and daisy.
However, the survey that was conducted by the Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland (BSBI) found that on Jan. 1, at least 612 plant species were actually flowering, including species from late spring and high summer.
In total, there were about 8,568 plants in bloom across Britain and Ireland, a number incredibly greater than that of last year, which was only 368.
This occurred without any precedence, and has left botanists astonished.
"It's incredible. I've never seen anything like it," said BSBI's Head of Science Kevin Walker.
Ryan Clark, coordinator of the BSBI project, said the milder areas of Britain, south and west, had the highest numbers of blooming species, but there were also more than 60 flowering species reported in Edinburgh.
He said lists from Ireland also had consistently high numbers of plants in flower at New Year.
"It was astonishing to see so many records flooding in, from Guernsey to Shetland and Kent to Donegal,"said Clark.
Should This Be A Cause Of Concern?
Gardeners were concerned that the high number of plant species flowering so early will herald an early spring. Walker assured the public there's no reason for concern.
"There does not seem to be any real indication of an early spring," he said.
Plant species that usually bloom in spring, such as cow parsley, lesser celandine and sweet violet, were recorded, but they make up less than a fifth of the total, Walker said.
What else were recorded? Walker said three quarters of the plants were "autumn stragglers" such as the red campion, yarrow and red deadnettle that had carried on blooming in the mild weather condition. The dandelion and the daisy were the two most recorded plant species, and these two are expected to be flowering at this time of the year, he said.
The 612 plant species represent a quarter of the species that flower regularly in Britain and Ireland. A third of these species are foreign plants that came from warmer climates. These plants are able to continue blooming until the hard winter frost knocks them down.
Urban areas tended to have more species in flower than in rural ones, previous BBSI surveys revealed. This was expected, as there were more sheltered areas with warm temperatures in which alien and native plants can survive, Walker said.
Is The Incident Linked To Climate Change?
As the previous year was considered to be the warmest year on record, Walker said the mass out-of-time flowering suggests substantial climate shift.
"It is what might be expected with climate change," he said.
Meanwhile, the BSBI's annual survey is likely to expand and transform into a valuable tool for measuring changes in the environment.
"The New Year Plant Hunt results will help us build up a clearer, up-to-date picture of what's going on," added Walker.
More Than 600 Plant Species Flowering At The Wrong Time Because Of Confusing Winter Conditions : SCIENCE : Tech Times

It will have serious implications as noted by the Telegraph:

Price of carrots, parsnips and cauliflowers set to rise because of flooding

Cost of winter vegetables could soar because wettest December on record has caused supply chaos for farmers, experts warn

Vegetable stall in Borough Market, London, 2014
The cost of winter vegetables like carrots, parsnips and cauliflowers could soar because the wet December Photo: Alamy
Britain's shoppers have been warned that they could face hikes in the price of popular vegetables because of widespread waterlogged fields and flooding.
According to a new report, the cost of winter vegetables such as carrots, parsnips and cauliflowers could soar because the wettest December on record has caused supply chaos for farmers.
High Street supermarkets should brace themselves for fresh produce supply shortages in coming months as extreme weather threatens both UK and imported crops, say industry experts.
"We expect an early end of season for round tomatoes and plum tomatoes with a noticeable dip in supply in May and reduced availability of cucumbers over the next month"
Matt Jones
Trade magazine The Grocer reported that in the UK, crops have been thrown into chaos by warm temperatures and heavy rainfall that the Met Office has linked to El Ninoand climate change.
December was one of the warmest and wettest on record, according to the Met Office - and that has led to rivers bursting their banks and meant farmers' tractors have not been able to reach crops in fields.
John Sedgwick, strategic agronomy manager for supplier Produce World Group, said the weather was causing havoc with both the quality and quantity of many winter vegetables.
He said that supplies of carrots and parsnips are likely to be hit because "field-stored" vegetables needed dry, cold soil to remain fresh in the field until they were harvested.
He said: "This will inevitably have a significant impact on how much product will be of the right specification to make it into the final pack."

Matt Jones, senior buyer for specialists Reynolds, said crops in the UK and abroad had been affected. He said that warm temperatures have caused other vegetables to mature earlier than expected.
Mr Jones said the "early spring" had thrown many different crops into confusion with cauliflowers maturing very quickly and new season Jersey potatoes expected earlier this year.
He told The Grocer: "We expect an early end of season for round tomatoes and plum tomatoes with a noticeable dip in supply in May and reduced availability of cucumbers over the next month."

Price of carrots, parsnips and cauliflowers set to rise because of flooding - Telegraph

It's also happening across the United States:
Spring Will Come Three Weeks Early in U.S. Thanks to Climate Change
Climate Change Could Make Early Spring Permanent: Here’s How This Could Affect Wildlife : SCIENCE : Tech Times

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