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Calendar says winter, climate says spring — Associated Press

By Seth Borenstein

Spring has sprung early – potentially record early – in much of the United States, bringing celebrations of shorts weather mixed with unease about a climate gone askew.

Crocuses, tulips and other plants are popping up earlier than usual from Arizona to New Jersey and down to Florida. Washington is dotted with premature pink blossoming trees. Grackles, red-winged blackbirds and woodpeckers are just plain early birds this year.

Fidelio Desbradel and his wife Leonor Desbradel, of the Dominican Republic, take a selfie in front of a Tulip Magnolia tree in Washington, Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2017. Crocuses, cherry trees, magnolia trees are blooming several weeks early because of an unusually warm February. Some climate experts say it looks like, because of an assist from global warming, spring has sprung what may be record early this year in about half the nation.

The unseasonably warm weather has the natural world getting ahead of – even defying – the calendar, scientists said Tuesday.

In cities like Indianapolis, Pittsburgh and Columbus, Ohio, spring has arrived about a month earlier than the 30-year average and about 20 days earlier than in 2012, which was the earliest spring on record.

Scientists at the U.S. Geological Survey’s National Phenology Network, which studies seasonal signs, have calculated a local and national spring leaf index based on observations of lilacs, honeysuckles and temperature records that are fed into a computer model.

The spring leaf index goes back to 1900, and 2012 has been the earliest on record . But preliminary records show this year ahead of 2012 in a good chunk of the nation.

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