July 3, 2015

New Research Indicates Spring in New England Begins a Week Earlier Now than Fifty Years Ago

Brown-MBL PhD student Xi Yang  and colleagues recently reported in the Journal of Geophysical Research that the New England spring, as measured by plant phenological changes, arrives as much as a week earlier today than it did fifty years ago. Yang and his colleagues at the MBL Ecosystems Center, Brown University’s Department of Geological Sciences, and the University of Minnesota’s  Department of Soil, Water Climate used remotely-sensed phenology and metereological data to assess the accuracy of three different species-level budburst phenology models and one senescence model, and then used the best of the budburst models, the Spring Warming Model, and the Delpierre Senescence Model, to reconstruct plant phenology in New England between 1960 and 2010.  They determined that New England has experienced a statistically significant advance in the start of season between 1960 and 2010, averaging 0.143 days per year or a more than seven day advance over the 50 year period studied. In addition to showing a significant change in start of season over recent decades, the researchers also demonstrated that phenology models can be useful for both reconstructing and predicting plant phenological changes at the regional level over time.