Mike Tidwell comments -Here’s a sneak preview to the new climate. And it’s not just in Europe—all of the north hemisphere is disturbed.
Wheat harvested a month early, markets bursting with prematurely ripened produce, animals migrating too soon or not at all — Europe’s warmest winter on record has made nature run amok, experts across the continent have reported.
With average temperatures in the three winter months of December through February more than 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above average in most European countries, the environment’s biological clock has been thrown off kilter, they say.
In Italy, emerging from the mildest winter in more than two centuries according to Bologna’s Institute for Atmospheric Science and Climate, vegetables not normally seen until later in the season — green beans , asparagus, peas, artichokes — are already so abundant that merchants can’t sell them.
In The Netherlands, where winter wheat has been harvested a month earlier than normal, scientists worry that unseasonably high temperatures will increase the risk of grain plant viruses caused by aphids.
In neighbouring Germany, half of barley crops in some regions have been hit with a weather-related blight of yellow dwarf disease, carried by fleas that do not normally survive the winter.
The Dutch nature observatory Natuurkalender has reported the “chaotic” disruption of normal butterfly lifecycles, with many species emerging from the cocoon far too early.
Woodpeckers and swallows have likewise arrived a month ahead of schedule, they observed.
In Austria, toads in the region of Styria began their spring migration to summer ponds at least 15 days early, catching environmentalists who last year shepherded thousands of the amphibians across motorways to safety off guard and unprepared.
In Sweden — where temperatures at midweek stood at 10 C (50 F) compared to -10 C (14 F) at the same time last year — and elsewhere in Scandinavia, melting snows and pollen in January have heralded an untimely spring.
This flurry of alarmed observations from across Europe arrive amid predictions by climatologists and weather forecasters that record warm weather is likely to continue through the spring, and perhaps into the summer as well.
“The average temperature for the three months of Spring (March, April, May) will be above normal,” said French climatologist Michel Schneider, though he did not rule out the possibility of a cold snap or two.
Earlier in the year, climate change experts at Britain’s Met Office forecast that 2007 would likely be the warmest on record around the world, breaking the record set in 1998.
In France, looking further into the future, the state-run weather service predicts that the number of full-fledged summer heat waves — similar to the one in 2003 that left 15,000 French people dead — will increase tenfold starting in 2070.
The observations also coincides with a report released Thursday by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration stating that this winter was the warmest for the entire Northern Hemisphere of the planet since it began keeping records 128 years ago.
In Spain, high temperatures and strong winds have already fanned a series of fires around Barcelona in the northeast, and in Valencia further south.
And in Greece, agricultural authorities are already forecasting a difficult year due to drought in the bread-basket grain area of Thessaly.
A United Nations study last month said human activity was almost certain to blame for global warming and warned that the Earth’s average surface temperature could rise between 1.1 and 6.4 degrees by 2100.