by Guy Middleton – Lake Manager
Scientists who study the world’s climate have predicted that global warming could cause spring to start earlier. That appears to be what’s happening. Looking over records retrospectively, one can see a very steady, progressive change towards earlier snowmelt and earlier runoff. Records this year have been broken across the Adirondacks at an astonishing pace.
Temperatures nearing 80 degrees in mid to late March are breaking previous records by not just one or two degrees; records are being smashed by as much as 15 degrees and averaging 20 -30 degrees higher than the norm. This wasn’t just a one day occurrence -the records went on for over a week. Low temperatures for evenings were above what daytime highs would normally have been for this time of year. Daytime high temperatures have been between 60 and 75 degrees F, with nighttime temperatures remaining well above freezing.
Ice out records, for some areas kept as far back as 1903, are also being broken across the Adirondacks. Upper Saranac Lakes ice went out this year March 24. Due to near record low snowfall this past winter, lake water levels are also down by almost a foot below what they were last year.
So what does this mean for Upper Saranac Lake in the future? Possibly, a change in the forest and aquatic ecosystems including warmer summer water temperatures creating greater chances for algae blooms? Perhaps drought-like conditions with much longer summer dry spells will increase the possibilities of wildfire? Could lower water levels expose navigation hazards and leave docks high and dry? Some of these possibilities may be extreme for this year, but it is important to consider the outcomes if this trend continues and only time will tell. Scientists, who study how seasons affect plant and animal life cycles (phenology), say that, on average, spring comes several days earlier now than it did a few decades ago.
Already in March in the Adirondacks we have seen mosquitoes flying-about, trees budding, decrease in maple syrup production (one third to one half of an average season’s crop), and allergy suffers with runny noses and itchy eyes. Of course it’s not all bad, golf courses have opened early, residents took advantage of the opportunity to get out and enjoyed the nice weather, and there has not been much of a mud season, allowing contractors and forest workers to access jobs.
It will be interesting to see just what this year’s early spring brings.