The Pulse

Spring is becoming the new summer, because of climate change

By: - March 1, 2023 11:29 am

Pine pollen is gilding our windshields. Azalea blooms are emerging from their winter sleep. The gawd-awful Bradford pear trees are stinking up the side streets.

Today, March 1, is meteorological spring for those of you who observe.

Meteorologists measure the seasons a bit differently to make it easier to compare weather and climate statistics and trends. Astronomical spring, based on the position of the sun, doesn’t arrive for another three weeks.

Whichever ritual you prefer, the bottom line is, it’s exceptionally warm, hot even, for this time of year. In late February, temps at the Raleigh-Durham International Airport hit 84 degrees, the highest reading for the month since record-keeping began in the late 1800s. Average spring temperatures in the Triangle are running 3.5 degrees warmer than in 1970, according to data released today by Climate Central. An additional 15 days are recording above normal temperatures over the same time period.

Likewise, the Triangle’s growing season — and allergy season — has lengthened by a month; because of climate change, we now experience 220 consecutive days above freezing.

The warming trend in the Triangle is holding throughout most of North Carolina. But next week nighttime temps are forecast to dip into the 30s, which means the early bloomers could get frostbitten next week.

An early bloomer, about to be frostbitten next week (Photo: Lisa Sorg)

Average spring temperatures, in degrees Fahrenheit 

Asheville — +2.2
Charlotte — +2.6
Greenville — +2.6
Triad — +3.3
Wilmington — +1.9

Number of spring days above normal

Asheville — +14
Charlotte — +14
Greenville — +12
Triad — +17
Wilmington — +7

Length of growing season, in days

Asheville — +32
Charlotte— -9
Greenville — +25
Triad — +32
Wilmington — +6

National trends, per Climate Central

Spring temperatures have increased by 2 degrees on average across the US since 1970.

Over that same time period, spring is warmer in 232 US locations, equivalent to 97% of 238 areas where climate data is officially kept.

A new study suggests that pollen concentrations in the U.S. could increase 200% with high future rates of carbon dioxide emissions.

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Lisa Sorg
Lisa Sorg

Assistant Editor and Environmental Reporter Lisa Sorg helps manage newsroom operations while covering the environment, climate change, agriculture and energy.