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Signs of an Unusually Early Spring in Southeastern Pennsylvania Should Not Be a Cause for Celebration

Uh-Oh! Violets in late February?


This whole winter has been anomalously warm in southeastern Pennsylvania where I live. My oil guy, Hans, is complaining that the demand for home heating oil is so low this winter that it's killing his business, causing him to lay off workers that he had already trained.

Like everything about climate change, and this is about climate change, as numerous scientific studies like this one are demonstrating, there are short-term benefits to some of what's happening, of course. Han's problems aside, on my end, my heating bill this winter is the lowest it's been in the 20 years we've lived here, even factoring in the relatively low cost of oil. It is, for example, even lower than it was last year when the price of oil was lower than today. And who's going to complain about this week, when our temperatures, for a five-day stretch, have been in the mid 60 degrees to the low 70s? T-shirt weather! And no sign of a night-time frost looking out as far as 10 days from now.

I went outside yesterday, when the thermometer hit 68 in the afternoon, and pulled the pile of clear plastic that some six weeks ago I had tossed over a patch of swiss chard in my little fenced-in raised-bed vegetable garden during a stretch of colder weather when we had some nights drop into the teens, and the chard, which I had been able to nurse through this mild winter up until that colder period by just covering it lightly with one sheet of plastic at night, and exposing it during the daytime, was a lush green, with leaves rising about four inches above the ground. At this point, I don't think I'll have to cover the plants at night anymore as they can handle a mild frost, so at least one crop left from my last year's garden will be up and running this year as of February.

Over-wintered swiss chard plants in the author's garden, ready to start growing again in late FebruaryOver-wintered swiss chard plants in the author's garden, ready to start growing again in late February

On my way out of the house, my eyes were drawn to a few spots of bright blue on the ground, and looking down at a patch of overgrown weeds in a garden island in our sidewalk, I saw several blooming birds eye speedwell plants -- an early flower I would still not expect to see around this region for another month.

Beside the lamppost, a whole bunch of daffodil leaves were shooting up about four inches above the ground already, again way ahead of schedule.

story | by Dr. Radut