Wednesday, March 30, 2016

What's an "average" Spring #phenology?

The butterfly plant seeds are getting watered by today's showers. They should germinate in two or three weeks. I'm actually getting excited about seeing how many come up. The woods in front of the house are full of flocks of juncos and what I think are house finches (they look slightly smaller than, and the coloring differs slightly from, the purple finches we've had at the feeders). Leaf buds on the oaks have just started to develop. The maple buds have burst and are swelling. Quite literally, "Spring is busting out all over."

fiddlehead ferns unwinding
fiddlehead ferns unwinding
Photo by J. Harrington

Comparing this Spring's developments with pictures and dates from 2012, I'll look for ferns to have their fiddleheads visible in a week or two. Thinking about tracking phenology, I haven't yet found listings such as those we have for weather -- average, high and low for a date, or the "variability range" around data sets so we could readily see the average, earliest and latest dates on record at certain locations for things like ice out, bud burst, ephemera blooms etc. As our weather/climate patterns become more variable, having more nuanced presentations of what to look for and when would, I think, be really helpful. Perhaps I've been spending too much time looking at trout fly hatch charts, which usually show, by week of the month, what to look for.

bar chart with confidence intervals (red)
bar chart with confidence intervals (red)

If we proceed with the idea that there's a phenological(?) relationship between what's in bloom and what's hatching and daily temperatures (heating or cooling degree days) and amount of daylight, averages and static listings are going to lose some of their utility, unless, of course, the climatologists are all wrong! Yeah, right! If any of you know of the kind of phenology information organization and presentation I'm speculating about, please share in a comment or tweet @JohnHthePoet. Thanks.

In Your Absence

By Judith Harris

Not yet summer,   
but unseasonable heat   
pries open the cherry tree.   

It stands there stupefied,   
in its sham, pink frills,   
dense with early blooming.   

Then, as afternoon cools   
into more furtive winds,   
I look up to see   
a blizzard of petals   
rushing the sky.   

It is only April.   
I can’t stop my own life   
from hurrying by.   
The moon, already pacing.


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