Warmer Weather Moves Nature’s Calendar Ahead

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By: James Kinsella
Published: 04/20/12

Today’s date may be April 20, but as far as local deer tick nymphs are concerned, it is early June.

“They’re at least six weeks ahead of schedule,” said William Clark, director of the Cape Cod Cooperative Extension in Barnstable Village.

The tick nymphs are not alone.

The remarkably mild winter and warm early spring has moved up the schedule for animals and plants in the town of Barnstable, not to mention the schedules of people whose work is connected to them.

“We’ll be mowing lawns this coming week,” said Steven Davis, horticulture division manager at Joyce Landscaping in Marstons Mills.

Joyce Landscaping normally would not start mowing lawns for its clients until early May, Mr. Davis said.

The company also has moved up its schedule for spring cleanups.

At Barnstable Seafarms, owner Les Hemmila said, “We’ve been able to get oysters back in the water sooner.”

Mr. Hemmila grows shellfish both in Barnstable Harbor and in West Bay in Osterville.

Given the danger presented by winter ice in Barnstable Harbor, he normally pulls his oysters from the waters of that harbor in winter and places them in a cooler until that danger disappears.

(No such maneuver is necessary in West Bay, where his shellfish are more protected.)

This year, given the warmer weather and lack of ice, he has been able to get his Barnstable Harbor oysters back into the harbor about two weeks earlier than usual.

But Mr. Hemmila acknowledges that the warm-weather sword may be double-edged.

The lack of cold weather this past winter may have allowed more shellfish predators such as crabs and moon snails to survive, he said.

At the cooperative extension, Mr. Clark said flowering plants and trees such as magnolias and daffodils are ahead of schedule by at least a month.

But he said an interim period of colder weather hurt the magnolia blossoms that already had come out.

He does not expect the blossoms to recover from the cold snap.

Another factor coming into play with the warmer weather is the current drought.

Mr. Clark said he expects the drought to hold back plant growth that normally would be surging ahead with the current warm temperatures.

On the plus side, Mr. Hemmila said, the drought has cut down on the algae in the Osterville waters with which he normally would have to contend.

Mr. Clark said a frost still is not out of the question.

With that possibility in mind, he expects farmers in the area will stick by their traditional planting schedules, not putting more fragile plants such as tomatoes outside in the ground until Memorial Day or early June.

According to the National Weather Service in Taunton, average temperatures have been running above normal for months in southern New England.

While weather service meteorologist Rebecca Gould did not have specific temperature averages for Cape Cod, she said average temperatures in March in Providence ran 7 degrees above normal, and 8 degrees above normal in Boston.

Temperatures this past winter in those cities averaged 5 degrees above normal.

Temperatures in those cities also continue to break records this spring. For example, on Monday, the temperature in Boston reached 87 degrees, breaking the prior record of 84 set in 2003.

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