Abnormal warmth leads to early tree budding

Early Spring Arrival

Mid-Missourians have enjoyed quite a treat for Mother Nature this month, with the springlike weather. Temperatures have been nearly 20-30 degrees above average tricking many trees into budding earlier than normal.  The early budding could come at a cost, as winter is far from over and many forecasting models still hint at the return of arctic air through the next month.

"We're beginning to worry about having an early spring," state forestry extension specialist Hank Stelzer said.

It's his concern that this early spring tease will likely rival 2007, when trees began to bloom and then winter returned, killing everything. 

"We just don't want to see a repeat of 2007, when we had that Easter freeze," Stelzer said. "It's one thing for things to break bud now, but then we can't have any really cold temperatures behind it."

Lately trees have been budding earlier than normal and the reason has a lot to do with climate change.  Just this year, Columbia is 16 days ahead compared with 2016, 25 days ahead compared with 2015, and 50 days ahead compared with the 30-year normal (1981-2010). It's not only occurring here, but across a good portion of the country.

"We're seeing our average temperatures in February, that we normally don't see these until March," Stelzer said.

Professors at the University of Missouri tell ABC 17 News that the big it factor that comes into play, that gives trees the go ahead to bloom is the minimum overnight temperature. The minimum hovers above the 30-degree mark and lately we've been well above that. As we head into the weekend we'll see the return of winter, with lows back into the 20s, potentially causing problems for trees that have already budded.


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