The “Season Creep” Trend

 

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This photo is epic AND relevant. I promise. Keep reading. (Photo courtesy of me! Summit of the South Sister Mountain, Three Sisters Wilderness, Oregon, 2015).

Season creep is the reason I can’t celebrate my March birthday outside anymore, as well as why I no longer need to ruin my Halloween costume with a winter coat.

It’s the trend of seasons shifting over time. For the temperate Midwest (us), this earthly process means colder springs and warmer autumns. This phenomenon interests me because these changes are usually large-scale; the crazy part about season creep is we can feel it in our own lifetimes! Do you remember when March actually felt like spring? I do! And I’m obviously bitter that it’s becoming as unpleasant as February, which now seems almost as bad as our usual Januaries.

Season creep doesn’t just bother us; all the classic biotic factors are affected. Certain species of migratory birds no longer migrate, because toughing out a mild winter is a lot less work than traveling south for winter break. Bodies of water that freeze regularly now freeze less frequently, melt sooner, and fill up spring lakes way earlier. ..

…Which brings us to our vanishing ice patches. Were you waiting for me to yell Natural Disaster? You’ve read my posts before, haven’t you?

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The snow spots on the South Sister serve to water the surrounding area in the summer. Here, they’re all but gone by the first week of August (Photo courtesy of me! Three Sisters Wilderness, Oregon, 2015).

If average spring temperatures rise only two degrees Celsius (yes, we use Celsius because we’re a science blog) in the Western US, runoff water from high-altitude snow melt is predicted to occur two months ahead of schedule. Imagine a winter-spring transition where lakes are already as replenished as they’ll be for the rest of the year.  Cue longer summers, streams drying up early, intensifying droughts, and increasing forest fires; all sorts of havoc that has already exhausted the American West.

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On the opposite side of the Three Sisters mountain range, a solid stretch had been burned, leaving no water sources for a 15-mile stretch (Photo courtesy of me! Three Sisters Wilderness, Oregon, 2015).

Ok, we all agreed that sucks in 2008. Why are you talking about this? 

For one, weather is neat. For another, taking classes where scientific topics are discussed with non-scientific students reminded me how often the massively broad term “climate change” is used without being understood.  Not that it’s incredibly complicated, only that climate change often is responsible for processes and problems we would never expect, and that those problems lead to new problems, which spawn issues we’ve never seen before and are so far down the rabbit hole of inter-related geologic processes, we can’t narrow down their direct cause.

You can see why education is important here. No sense trying to solve a problem if we don’t know why it keeps happening.

The fear-inducing term was coined in the 2006 American Environmental Organization publication, “Season Creep: How Global Warming Is Already Affecting The World Around Us,” which certainly goes into more detail about the delicate nature of nature than I did here. If you’re interested in all the effects of this phenomenon, this is your best source to understand it.

Have a Scien-tastic day!

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