Will spring be the same this year?


It’s the beginning of March and here in southern New England we are all looking forward to spring. This is our annual Home & Garden issue, because it’s around now that we’re usually ready to put the snow and freezing temperatures behind us. Purim looms, too. It’s the happy month of Adar.

But this year is different. Our bulbs are already sprouting. In Washington, D.C., the cherry blossoms are set to bloom way ahead of schedule. Both are certain harbingers of spring, but they’re early.

What happened to winter? I haven’t even had time to write my annual column about how bad the weather has been! 

As I write this in early March, a look at the long-range forecast shows predictions of  temperatures in the 40s and 50s – continuing a trend of well-above-normal temperatures and little snow. Only rain is in the forecast.

It’s been that way all winter. Yes, we’ve had a few days of temperatures in the teens and 20s, but what happened to the negative temperatures and the snow? Where has our winter gone?

I never thought I’d be writing about how I miss snow. But I do. Will spring be the same if winter never comes?

Now, I know I could travel to northern New England, where there has been some cold and snow. But that’s not the point. We usually have considerable snow here. Not this year.

According to the National Centers for Environmental Information, a part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, January temperatures were well above average and precipitation was roughly 50% of average. In fact, the Northeast had its 10th-warmest January since 1895. We all know that February 2020 was nothing like normal. A quick check of local numbers showed just a trace of snow in February. The last time that happened was 1984.

Many of us are relieved that we haven’t had to shovel snow, or slog through sleet and slush. There was no ice on the sidewalk to impede our walking. Many who take to indoor treadmills in January and February have continued their outdoor routines.

But there is a downside to this warm winter.

The bugs that usually die in the winter, especially after a hard frost, are still around. My guess is that they will swarm in large numbers as the weather warms.

Plants and flowers are confused. Buds are out now, long before they should be, and shoots are up. If we get a few cold days, it could hurt all those tender young plants.

More importantly, it’s just not right. And it takes some of the joy out of that first 50-degree day of spring when we have routinely hit that temperature for most of the winter.

While one warm winter here is no climate indicator, there is clear evidence that our climate is warming globally. Whether you subscribe to the science of climate change or not, perhaps now is the time to think about what you can do to lessen your impact on our environment and to help preserve Earth for future generations.

It’s not that difficult to take such steps as cutting plastics from your daily routine and switching to reusable cups, utensils, dishes and bags. For the most part, our family has done that, and it feels good to add less waste to the land and water. Reducing our carbon waste further, with more efficient lighting, cars and travel, is something else we’re working on in my household.

Will that bring back the snow? Maybe not. But it’s the right thing to do anyway.

In the meantime, let’s look forward to all that spring has to offer. It might not be the same after a winter with so many warmish days, but it’s still the time of renewal and regrowth and celebration. And it’s still time to start sprucing up your yard and getting your garden ready for those even warmer summer days ahead.