I Told You So

By Miryam Ehrlich Williamson

lilacsbryamilona photo: brianilona/flickr

Last July, writing here about global warming, I said our growing season has lengthened by about two weeks on either end since we came to Western Massachusetts.  I wrote

When we moved here in 1985, people who learned we were here to raise sheep and chickens and grow vegetables told us not to plant until Memorial Day weekend. After that, they said, there’d pretty sure not be another hard frost, although….


That was 1985. Twenty years later we wanted to kick ourselves for waiting so late to plant seeds and transplant seedlings. The past couple of years, we’ve had everything but the squash and tomatoes in the ground mid-May.

It used to be that we saw frost soon after Labor Day. The past couple of years, light frost has come in mid-October and the killing one in November.

Now comes confirmation of my observation, although the USDA is more conservative than I am in estimating the lengthening of the season (and probably not as close to the ground).

From the blog La Vida Locavore comes this:

Did you know that in 1965 the U.S. Department of Agriculture planted a particular variety of lilac in more than seventy locations around the U.S. Northeast, to detect the onset of spring – in turn to be used to determine the appropriate timing of corn planting and the like? The records the USDA have kept show that those same lilacs are blooming as much as two weeks earlier than they did in 1965. April has, in a very real sense, become May.

This information comes from a book called Early Spring by Amy Seidl, a Ph.D. ecologist and an avid gardener who lives in Vermont. In a review on RealClimate, the author says,

The brilliant title of Seidl’s book was one of the reasons that it caught my attention. The other was that I have realized I need to better educate myself about the impact of climate change on everyday life. I’ve been dismissive of the idea that the average person can really detect the impacts of recent warming on, for example, the timing of the apple-blossom season, but I’ve been taken to task by several of RealClimate’s readers for this. If you are paying attention, they have argued, the changes are actually rather obvious.

Of course, Amy Seidl is not the average person […] and she’s clearly paying extremely close attention. Her book is the first one I have read that effectively brings home the tangible impacts that global warming will have – is having – on our everyday lives. “We are increasingly familiar,” she writes, of images of melting glaciers, “but how do we give them relevance in our lives? From my window I see no glaciers.” She answers her own question with a series of vignettes, some from her own experiences, many more from her extensive research (well referenced throughout the book).

I’m fighting the impulse to read this book. I’m about to start writing one of my own, I should be outside planting right this very minute, and I’m getting very jealous of my time. I’m fighting, but I know I’m going to give in.

If you do nothing else, at least read the review.

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One Response to “I Told You So”

  1. Snow stays later in North Dakota these days. But then comes the fast heat and summer lasts longer on the other end. Clearly climate change has altered all our weather patterns, no matter where we live.

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