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‘Tis the season’? Learn how change is in the air

Posted on 1 July 2021 by Guest Author

This is a re-post from Yale Climate Connections by SueEllen Campbell

On June 6, 1857, Henry David Thoreau wrote this in his journal: “Our thoughts and sentiments answer to the revolutions of the seasons, as two cog-wheels fit into each other.” It’s true: the seasons we know are both material and cultural, both collective and personal. We expect them to stay reasonably stable through our lifetimes and we layer them with all kinds of memories and expectations. 

The June solstice will arrive as usual on the 20th, despite our having caused Earth’s axis to move a little bit (through climate change and perhaps groundwater pumping). But – as a direct result of our putting more CO2 into the air – other aspects of our seasons are breaking with their past. 

We’ll focus first on the planet’s temperate zones.

According to the American Geophysical Union (AGU), “Northern Hemisphere summers may last nearly half the year by 2100.” Note the excellent graphic of the projected shifting of season dates.

You can find an excellent set of summaries and specific data (intended for reporters) at Climate Central and at the EPA’s newly-restored set of climate indicators (see seasonal temperatures and growing seasons).

Winters are warmer, even when they seem cold to us, as explained by Mark Kaufman in Mashable

Springs are earlier. See, for instance, this story (Jason Samenow, Washington Post) about Japan’s cherry blossom records and this EPA record of ice breakup on Alaska’s rivers. 

As many of us know in our own bodies, allergy seasons are lengthening. This 2021 story in Vox by Umain Irfan is an excellent explanation. (Additional explanations and graphics are in Irfan’s 2020 piece.) For more on the new study led by William Anderegg, see John Schwartz in the NYT here.

Fire weather seasons are starting earlier and lasting longer, as explained (in April 2021) here by Simon Romero in the NYT and (in 2015) here by NASA.

California offers an especially vivid example of how changing seasons and wildfire intersect (Matthew Cappucci, Washington Post), with its Mediterranean climate characterized by wet and dry seasons. Similar changes are projected for the Mediterranean itself, as explained in this report from McKinsey

What about the parts of the world where monsoons dominate the seasons? Though nearly two-thirds of all people live in such places, the  mechanisms of current and expected changes are not well understood. It does seem clear that monsoons will continue to grow stronger and more erratic (thus causing significantly more chaos). You can learn more in these stories (focused on India): 

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Comments 1 to 2:

  1. Japan's cherry blossom festivals are coming later each year, but its temple fireworks have suffered as much from rising fire risks as America's celebratiion of the 4th of July

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    Moderator Response:

    [BL] Link activated.

    The web software here does not automatically create links. You can do this when posting a comment by selecting the "insert" tab, selecting the text you want to use for the link, and clicking on the icon that looks like a chain link. Add the URL in the dialog box.

    I am guessing that you are indeed Russell Seitz? I think you may already have an active account (or two) here at SkS. If you are having problems logging on to a previous account, you can use the Contact form to ask for help. It is a bit hard to find - scroll to the very bottom of the web page and look at the end of the row of text/links.


    ???? Hanami (as the cherry blossom festival is called) is of course celebrated to coincide with the cherry blossom and, as the upside-down hockey stick graph below shows, the blossom has on average not been arriving later in the year since about July 4th 1776, although inscrutably the 1777 Hanami did indeed come later than the 1776 Hanami (by about a year).

    Cherry blossom timing graph

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    Moderator Response:

    [BL] If you follow the link that MNESTHESUS has provided, I suspect that you will recognize the sardonic humor of Russel Seitz.

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