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Spring weather: Confusing asparagus, peaches and even squirrels

An unseasonably warm winter has given way to an early spring -- and that’s making some folks just a bit nervous. It’s not because the weather hasn’t been lovely. But the fluctuating temperatures have confused flora and fauna.

Consider parts of the East Coast. On March 23, the mercury hit 83 degrees near Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport. This week daily highs in the East Coast have dialed back to “seasonal temperatures,” said Brian Lasorsa, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service’s Washington office. On Friday temperatures near the airport capped off at 58 degrees.

That’s well above freezing, but it does make some folks wonder what will happen if winter weather comes back in force. Parts of Connecticut were expecting snow Saturday.

Trees and plants have been lured out of their winter hibernation by the cozy climate, and it has sparked early mating seasons for spring nesting animals.

Gray squirrels and songbirds alarmed employees at the California Wildlife Center in Malibu when they began nesting in January and early February.

March’s cold snap could have been disastrous for the tiny animals, but executive director Cindy Reyes said the cold hasn’t had as much of an effect as the warmth did.

“Everything is happening a little sooner,” Reyes told the Los Angeles Times. On the upside, the babies have more features and fur on them than they’d normally have at this time of year and are possibly better equipped to deal with weather changes.

Meanwhile, farmers in Michigan are scrambling to deal with the early spring as trees start to bloom and crops are nearly ready to harvest.

“Our cherries and peaches are blooming six weeks earlier than normal,” said Todd Greiner, owner of Todd Greiner Farms in Hart. “We’ll be ready to pick the asparagus in two weeks.”

The biggest challenge posed by the unexpected blooms is finding field hands. “Many of the workers are still in Texas and Florida,” Greiner said, not terribly concerned about the mercury dipping.

“Cold weather will be fine,” he said, “as long as it doesn’t freeze.”

Then on Thursday night, a frost hit Pittsburgh.


“The previous two weeks were in the eighties,” said Angela Masters, a horticulturist for the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy. “It really accelerated spring bulbs like daffodils and tulips.”

Surprisingly, this week’s frost left the delicate spring flowers unharmed.

The cold won’t be a huge blow to the blossoms, Masters said in an interview. The lack of warmth will just stunt the plants’ growth and rewind the process a little bit as get things back to normal.

“I’ve never seen weather like this,” she said. “I’ve never seen so many flowers bloom in March.”

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