Certain environmental phenomena, such as flowers and plants that bloom early and migratory birds that travel prematurely, are more than nature at work ahead of schedule.
New research posits that the seasons that change prematurely could be the result of climate change and warming of average global temperatures, resulting in a prolonged summer. These balance shifts could have dangerous implications for agriculture and natural environments, as well as human health.
Published in the journal Geophysical Research and Letters, the study analyzes climatic and seasonal data spanning from 1952 to 2011 in the northern hemisphere. Collecting temperature data during these years helped scientists track when each of the four seasons began on average.
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The results indicate that the average length of summer increased from an average of 78 days to 95, while spring, winter and fall saw decreases in duration ranging from three to nine days.
Extrapolating these data, the scientists found that if this trend continues at the current rate, summer could last almost six months by 2100.
“This is the biological clock of all living things,” said study lead author Yuping Guan, a physical oceanographer with the State Key Laboratory for Tropical Oceanography at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, told NBC. “People argue about a 2 or 3 degree rise in temperature, but the change of season of global warming is something that everyone can understand.”
Some of the consequences of such a seasonal change could harm humans. Guan and his team point out that people could be exposed to large volumes of pollen for longer periods of time and experience an increase in mosquito populations that gravitate toward warmer northern environments.
This could introduce certain viruses, such as malaria, into new environments.
Flora and fauna could also have a difficult time adapting to a new climate, damaging existing ecosystems and disrupting energy demand as hot weather becomes warmer and persists for longer periods of time.
The scientists conclude by saying that this pattern will continue if emissions are not reduced and the Earth continues to absorb more heat than it reflects back into space.
“On the business stage as always, spring and summer will start about a month earlier than 2011 by the end of the century, fall and winter will start about half a month later, resulting in almost half a year of summer and less than 2 winter months in 2100, ”the authors write. “As the changes in the duration of the four seasons continue, which can trigger a chain of reactions, the formulation of policies for agricultural management, medical care and disaster prevention requires adjustments.”
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