Climate change is causing spring to come earlier in national parks

April 11, 2018 by  
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Each year, more than  1.5 million people attend the National Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington, D.C. to glimpse a colorful sign of spring . But while this year’s peak bloom was in line with the 96-year average, over the long term spring is actually springing sooner — due to climate change . This change isn’t limited to the cherry blossoms, either; recently published maps from NASA Earth Observatory have revealed how much earlier the season is starting in national parks around America. The maps show the “rate of change (days per century since 1901)” for first leaf and first bloom, drawing on data published in 2016  by National Park Service (NPS) ecologists. NASA Earth Observatory looked at 276 parks to discover around three-quarters are experiencing earlier springs — and over half are seeing extreme early springs. Related: California’s super bloom is so gigantic you can see it from space The changes in national parks offer more evidence that climate change is happening now; according to NASA Earth Observatory, “…most parks are already experiencing and responding to climate-driven changes.” Parks have had to alter the timing of opening park facilities, hiring seasonal staff, and commencing control of invasive plants and pests. The National Cherry Blossom Festival has also been extended, so that it’s more likely for the peak bloom and the festival to overlap. According to the National Cherry Blossom Festival website, the event now takes place over four weekends , as opposed to the two weekends it lasted in 1994 (although the festival website didn’t specifically attribute the length to climate change). NPS climate change ecologist John Gross said, “Climate changes are affecting resources across the entire range of national parks. Earlier springs, as indicated by leaf and flowering dates, is one of the most obvious and easily understood effects of climate change.” The magnitude of change differs across the parks; for example, in Grand Canyon National Park , spring is appearing almost two weeks earlier than in 1901, according to NASA Earth Observatory. Conversely, some parts of the southeastern United States haven’t experienced as much change. + NASA Earth Observatory Images via Depositphotos ( 1 , 2 ) and NASA Earth Observatory images by Joshua Stevens , using data courtesy of Monahan, William B., et al. (2016)

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Climate change is causing spring to come earlier in national parks

Explosive caterpillar infestation in New England is visible from space

July 18, 2016 by  
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There’s been a gypsy moth caterpillar ” population boom ” in New England and mid-Atlantic states, and the infestation isn’t only evident to locals on the ground – it can be seen from space. NASA Earth Observatory satellite images of Rhode Island show how much the caterpillars have chewed through the region’s forests . These caterpillars go for deciduous trees, and the NASA images reveal the damage they’ve done. In the Rhode Island satellite images, shown above, swaths of brown reveal where the caterpillars have been at work. The few green trees that remain are the coniferous trees the caterpillars shun. There are a few factors that led to the boom. Ecologists think one is a white-footed mice population decline; these mice typically prey on the caterpillars. Even worse is the drought taking hold of the region that weakens a fungus and virus that usually keep the caterpillars from infesting. Related: 107 Million Spiders Found in 4-Acre Nest at Baltimore Wastewater Plant It turns out disease and insects yearly damage ” 45 times more forest area ” than fires, according to one 2001 Oxford Journals’ BioScience study . Gypsy moth caterpillars were introduced to the United States during the 1860’s from Europe, and according to the NASA Earth Observatory, their populations tend to boom in certain years based on what is going on in the environment. Scientists aren’t worried – at least for now. Usually gypsy moth caterpillar infestations just make an area look browner than it should in the summer. But if the infestation goes on for three or more years, trees can die. Birds might be able to help out soon; when the caterpillar populations soar, the bird populations generally increase as well. Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management’s Forest Health Program Coordinator Paul Ricard said , “Though weak or sick trees could succumb, we are not worried about significant tree mortality yet.” Via Gizmodo Images via Wikimedia Commons , NASA Earth Observatory/Jesse Allen , and Paul Ricard

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Explosive caterpillar infestation in New England is visible from space

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