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‘Broken Weather’ Affecting Animals And Plants

By Molly Daly

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – It has been a season of very weird weather. Temperatures have been topping out in the 50s and 60s in what should be the dead of winter. How are the critters and plants reacting?

“As a weather watcher, I feel like the weather is officially broken,” said Mike Weilbacher, Executive Director at the Schuylkill Center. “We’re setting a record for the number of records that we set. It’s the wettest year, then it’s the driest year, then it’s the hottest year. We just keep see-sawing to extremes.”

The “broken weather” seems to have confused wildlife according to Weilbacher.

“I went outside and our honeybees and our beehives are unbelievably active. They’re actively out foraging, but there’s nothing to forage for because there’s no nectar,” he said. “We had some baby pigeons brought to our wildlife clinic. There are some pigeons that think it’s time to have babies.”

Then there is the turtle who should have been hibernating, cruising around the center’s pond under a thin layer of ice. Luckily, staffers saw the turtle and rescued it.

Weilbacher says that although a stretch of midwinter warmth cannot be pinned on climate change, the year-round weather yo-yo that includes hundred-year storms every year can.

“What you have to do is look for trends. For me, the long term trends are very erratic weather patterns that keep see-sawing very far from the norm,” he said.

Click to listen to Molly Daly’s Interview with Mike Weilbacher in this KYW Specials Place Podcast

Joining animals in getting a head start are the plants.

“A lot of our plants are coming out exceptionally early this year,” explains Paul Meyer, Executive Director of the Morris Arboretum. “I live on the grounds of the arboretum, and I’ve had a few early varieties of daffodils blooming for the past two weeks.”

chinesewitchhazel Broken Weather Affecting Animals And Plants

(Chinese Witch Hazel in Bloom. Courtesy: Morris Arboretum)

Meyer says the warmth has not pushed native trees to break dormancy, but some non-native shrubs are blooming early, like Chinese with hazel.

Last week, the U.S. Department of Agriculture issued a new Hardiness Zone Map, showing where plants are best suited to grow. The Map moves the region from Zone 6b to 7a.

“We can reliably grow the Southern Magnolia, things like crape myrtle, some of the camelias. Those are things, 30 years ago, we thought were not hardy here in Philadelphia.”

But just because we are on the upside of the weather see-saw, Meyer says you should not congratulate yourself for not buying snow tires just yet.

“Even in a time where the winters are getting warmer, that’s not to say that occasionally, you don’t have extremes, or even, going into the spring, you might have an exceptionally late frost.”

Click to listen to Molly Daly’s interview with Paul Meyer in this KYW Specials Place Podcast

Not just frost according to Weilbacher. He has news that will not be music to many people’s ears.

“My expectation is that at some point, winter will come back. It will probably surprise us and it wouldn’t really surprise me if another 20-to-30-inch snowstorm comes sometime in February.”

More from Molly Daly
  • Sgt.Grover

    The Earths weather patterns have been changing for billions of years resulting in Jungles becoming deserts and plains becoming Jungles. Our minunscule sample of data (only accurate info over past 100 years) is not enough to understand the pattern. Our pollution has very little to do with that….our pollution will result in poor health however. Ten thousand years after the eventual extinction of humans, the earth will not feel any impact.

  • Z: Week Three Consistency and Cantering « Horse Ideology

    […] with only one small snowfall. I had never expected 60 degree, sunny days during January! Apparently this is some sort of weather front system that is happening across the lower United States. While it’s nice now I don’t think it bodes well at all for the summer – it means […]

  • mgm

    actually peeple ,,,don’t mean to alarm.,,but when the sun starts to burn thru muh levis & once upon a time it didn’t used to do that?!……….but then that’s what we have c span for …to convince us to gather ’round for that jim jones koolaid…ANYBODY who can’t grasp the seriousness of these times is just plain STUPID!

    • Steve M.

      Thank you for that eloquent scientific appraisal. Strangely enough, I no longer feel alarmed. Go figure!

    • InconvenientDopes

      @mgm, you are a liberal apologist. These climate changes have been around for hundreds and thousands of years. Hot, cold, wet, dry, the earth’s climate has always changed, yet you and Uncle Al think you’ve got it all figured out. Oh, oh, someone helps us, we’ve ruined the atmosphere! shut it already

  • JM

    What is broken is the climate change scam. Weather is changeable and difficult to predict. Pollution must be curtailed but the carbon dioxide scare is BS. Lets try cleaning up the persistent contrails and the depleted uranium.

    • DE

      Where did you get you education?

  • Stars

    Then there is the turtle who should have been hibernating, cruising around the center’s pond under a thin layer of ice. Luckily, staffers saw the turtle and rescued it.
    I feel sorry for the poor turtle. I doubt it wanted to be “rescued.”

  • Mitt

    Not to mention a human species that won’t be around much longer if we continue to ransack the planet and think we are somehow immune from the consequences of our actions. People want to think that they can pollute and take with impunity. The reality of a closed loop system (i.e. what goes around, comes around) is increasingly showing they can’t.

    • Steve M.

      Mitt, I think that last astroid strike might have convinced you otherwise. It seems the planet has a habit of bouncing back. But I agree, we can always do things cleaner and more efficiently. That makes sense regardless of the consequences. I would call our planet a self regulating system, it’s not really a closed loop in the true sense of the phrase. So either we’ll be ‘self regulated’ into extinction, move off the planet, or adapt. The choice is ours…….Though as I said, I think it’s silly and arrogant to make these prognostications of doom and gloom from our very limited perspective…

      • Steve M.

        OK Mitt, If you did any real objective research you’d quickly realize 2 things. Number1 : The ‘normal’ overall historic temperature for the planet over the last 600 million years has been at least 10 degrees hotter than it is now. And number 2: Co2 levels have run 4 times higher than they are now without the corresponding temperature increases. We even had an ice age when levels were 12 times higher than now……..So why all the excitement? We’re living at a time where temps and Co2 levels are at historical lows…Which is what allowed man to evolve to where we are now, a mere 50 million years ago. The environment is not meant to adapt to us; WE are supposed to adapt to the environment. So the assumption that something is ‘wrong’ with the climate is based wholly upon our limited information and our narrow perspective.

      • Mitt

        Yes let’s wait for doom and gloom to come to the doorstep and walk inside, then say where the ***k did that come from? So hard for these people to look around, do some objective research and see the obvious, much easier to follow the corporate sponsored head spinners and relax back into a gentle slumber… until the knock on said door comes and brother, it’s on your front steps

    • amelie

      SO well said. Neighbors keep commenting about the weather: “isn’t it wonderful”? Wow. Well, I guess so. If you’re looking forward to more natural disasters in April and want people to be killed in horrific ways. Then even Obama has ignored environmental policy. What are we doing??

  • Mike Harlow

    Molly, It’s called Mother Nature, and Mother Nature is never broken. And the animals and plants, they’re not confused either, you are the one that’s confused.

    • Doug

      Is that what your poltician told you

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