Warmest Recorded Autumn And Winter In Parts Of Europe For 300 Years
Bears are waking up early, flowers are blooming weeks before they did last year and birds are migrating well ahead of time.
These are just some of the examples cited in this Reuters story (excerpted below) about the 'chaotic' changes in the natural world as spring arrives early in the Northern Hemisphere.
And Global Warming, claims the story, is to blame :
Spring officially starts on Wednesday at 0007 GMT when the sun passes north over the celestial equator but scientists say the biological clocks of animals and plants are running ahead of time, perhaps upset by global warming.
Orange trees, olives and peaches are blooming weeks ahead of schedule in Greece, geese are cutting down on migrations in Canada and the United States and bears have been unable to hibernate in Bulgaria.
Red Admiral butterflies and swallows -- usually a sign of summer after the birds spend the winter in Africa -- have been spotted early in the Netherlands after the warmest Dutch autumn and winter since records starting in 1706.
Winter in the northern hemisphere was the warmest since global records began in the late 19th century, spurred by a warming trend of recent decades and an El Nino warming of the Pacific, according to the U.S. government's weather agency.
And some experts predict that 2007 could eclipse 1998 and 2005 as the warmest on record.
Scientists say that weather is always chaotic but U.N. reports project that extreme events such as droughts, heatwaves and floods are likely to become more frequent because of a warming widely blamed on use of fossil fuels.
All 20 bears in a Bulgarian conservation park are awake after most skipped a hibernation normally lasting until April.
"The bears did not even try to sleep this winter. For the first time it happened to almost all of them," said Anton Paunkov, spokesman of the "Four Paws" foundation.
In Kew Gardens west of London, daffodils, crocuses and snowdrops have been opening early. In Britain, some birds such as chiffchaffs and blackcaps no longer bother to migrate.
Some farmers may benefit from longer growing seasons but many worry that early flowering exposes crops to late frosts or pests. Normal insect pollinators such as bees may not be around when the flowers bloom.
Among benefits, high winter temperatures may have helped keep winter heating bills down, helping limit high oil prices at about $60 a barrel.