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Science says spring began weeks ago, and that's not necessarily good


Spring arrived up to three weeks early across a broad swath of the country.

If this year is any indication, Groundhog Day may need to come earlier on the calendar.

Spring 2017 officially began Monday, but it actually sprung unusually early – up to three weeks ahead of schedule – from the southeastern United States to the Miami Valley, according to a Spring Leaf Index map based on scientific measures recorded by the USA-National Phenology Network.

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Broad climatic patterns such as global warming and local weather conditions are tied to the timing of leaf-out and flowering, according to the United States Geological Survey (USGS) program.

Though winter came back last week, signs of spring were abundant in the Miami Valley during February. Early flowering trees and spring flowers like crocuses and daffodils bloomed and grasses awakened from dormancy.

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National Phenology Center data are now able to show how far ahead spring is in localized regions. For instance, data show spring arrived 22 days early to Washington, D.C.

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“While these earlier springs might not seem like a big deal – and who among us doesn’t appreciate a balmy day or a break in dreary winter weather – it poses significant challenges for planning and managing important issues that affect our economy and our society,” said Dr. Jake Weltzin, a USGS ecologist and the executive director of the USA-National Phenology Center.

Human health can suffer from early-season disease-carriers such as ticks and mosquitos, and a longer, more vigorous pollen season, according to the USGS.

Spring also made an early appearance in coastal California, southern Nevada, southeastern Colorado, central Kansas, Missouri, southern Illinois, and Indiana.

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The trend is likely to continue as records show that 2016 was the hottest year ever recorded for the globe, and that it was the third record-breaking year in a row. The 16 of the 17 hottest years recorded occurred since 2000, according to national weather data.

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