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.”
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.”