APR 24, 2019 7:12 PM PDT

Spring is coming early in the Arctic

A study published recently in Global Change Biology brings bad news from the Arctic: spring is here – early. The research was funded by the UK Natural Environment Research Council and is a collaboration between researchers from the University of Edinburgh, and universities in Canada, the US, Denmark and Germany.

Better understanding the timing of activity in seasonal vegetation can give scientists a baseline to measure future changes – but it also allows them to see how the region is already being affected by climate change. For example, when certain species grow leaves and flowers is a clue which scientists can use to gauge rising temperatures and snow and sea ice melt.

Dr. Isla Myers-Smith, a co-author of the study from the University of Edinburgh's School of GeoSciences, commented: "In the extreme climate of the Arctic tundra, where summers are short, the melting of winter snows as well as warming temperatures are key drivers of the timing of spring. This will help us to understand how Arctic ecosystems are responding as the climate warms."

The team studied plants at different coastal sites around the Arctic tundra, focusing specifically on 14 species at four sites in Alaska, Canada and Greenland. They found that snow melt had a greater influence on the arrival of leaves and flowers than did temperatures.

“Spring temperatures and the day of spring drop in sea ice extent advanced at all sites (average 1°C per decade and 21 days per decade, respectively), but only those sites with advances in snow melt (average 5 days advance per decade) also had advancing phenology. Variation in spring plant phenology was best explained by snow melt date,” write the authors.

Signs of spring are coming earlier in the Arctic. Photo: Newsweek

While spring phenology was quite variable across the team’s sites, they also found that when compared to twenty years ago, leaves and flowers are coming out as much as 20 days sooner now. “Within the same timeframe, spring temperatures warmed by 1 degree Celsius each decade on average, while loss of sea ice occurred around 20 days sooner across the different regions. Snow melt advanced by about 10 days over two decades,” explains Science Daily.

The scientists hope their research sheds light on the complexity of the relationships between temperatures, snow and sea ice melt, and Arctic ecosystems. With the Arctic warming more rapidly than any other region of the planet, it is imperative that we understand as much as possible about the factors at play in the region.

Sources: Science Daily, Global Change Biology

About the Author
  • Kathryn is a curious world-traveller interested in the intersection between nature, culture, history, and people. She has worked for environmental education non-profits and is a Spanish/English interpreter.
You May Also Like
AUG 04, 2020
Earth & The Environment
Indigenous and local knowledge is crucial to biodiversity monitoring
AUG 04, 2020
Indigenous and local knowledge is crucial to biodiversity monitoring
A study published recently in the Journal of Applied Ecology harps on the necessity of incorporating Indigenous and loca ...
AUG 26, 2020
Space & Astronomy
Is a Supernova to Blame for the Devonian Extinction Event?
AUG 26, 2020
Is a Supernova to Blame for the Devonian Extinction Event?
Over the roughly 4.5 billion years of Earth's existence, there have been several periods were biodiversity has been near ...
SEP 17, 2020
Earth & The Environment
Concerns about carbon monoxide concentrations from CA's wildfires
SEP 17, 2020
Concerns about carbon monoxide concentrations from CA's wildfires
As California faces its worst wildfire season yet, with 28 major fires burning throughout the state as of September 14, ...
OCT 05, 2020
Earth & The Environment
The rising concern of aerosol particles
OCT 05, 2020
The rising concern of aerosol particles
A study from Colorado State University scientists provides insight into the resiliency of aerosol particles, particles f ...
OCT 15, 2020
Earth & The Environment
Where does Hawai'i's freshwater come from?
OCT 15, 2020
Where does Hawai'i's freshwater come from?
A new study published in the journal Hydrological Processes contemplates the origin of Hawai'ian freshwater sources. ...
OCT 27, 2020
Earth & The Environment
Bird abundance falling in remote parts of the Amazon
OCT 27, 2020
Bird abundance falling in remote parts of the Amazon
A new study published in Ecology Letters has documented a consistent fall in biodiversity in the Amazon. The scient ...
Loading Comments...