Early Birds and Bears and Whales And . . .

October 13, 2016

Early to bed and early to rise,

Makes a bear … HUNGRY!”

Look out! That clanking sound you hear may be a ravenous black bear scurrying through your trashcans for dinner. This year, the winter and spring temperatures have been so warm that hibernating black, brown and grizzly bears have awakened early. Their interrupted sleep has left many grumpy and very hungry.

However, the bears are not the only early arrivals. Thanks to the hot flow of this spring’s Gulf Stream, we have seen plants, fish, birds and beasts arriving early.

Bears are waking up early and hungry. SOURCE: Yellowstone Park News

The Gulf Stream is only one of the many currents that are part of the vast Atlantic Thermohalene Current. This current carries waters from the South Atlantic to the North Atlantic. Here in the North Atlantic, it has been flowing very fast and flooding our shores with hot tropical water. Offshore waters are 0.9˚ – 5.4˚F above normal. The hot marine air is welling up from the Gulf of Mexico and inland from the Atlantic. It created a warm winter and an early spring.

The Gulf Stream is flowing very fast, carrying hot, tropical water that is heating the Eastern US. SOURCE: NOAA

We have seen the impact of this fast-flowing water on marine life. Whale watchers are reporting early migrations of blue, grey, humpback and even the rare right whales. On a smaller scale, mackerel and herring swam into New England waters two weeks ahead of schedule. Other fish are also arriving north. Awash in abundant food, harbor seals are having their pups as much as two months early.

Marine breezes are carrying the warm temperatures inland. If you live east of the Rocky Mountains, your gardens have been blossoming early. Similarly, farms and orchards have seen their plants sprouting and blossoming as much as six weeks ahead of schedule. Expect your June strawberries to arrive in May!

The skies are filled with migrating birds. From western Elf Owls to Turkey Vultures, Mallard Ducks and Yellow-throated Warblers, spring migrations are early and heavy. The gentle winter and warm spring (as well as an overabundance of insects) are creating ideal conditions for birds and bird watchers.

Harbor seals are having their pups two months early. SOURCE: USFWS

So much news is negative. Even early blooming plants have mostly been reported as horrendous pollen counts for allergy sufferers. So here is the good news from Mother Nature—across much of North America, warm early spring is turning into a lush spring, filled with life—from strawberries to seal pups.

About This Blog

Are you a weather watcher? Welcome to “Weather Whispers” by James Garriss and until recently, Evelyn Browning Garriss. With expertise and humor, this column covers everything weather—from weather forecasts to WHY extreme weather happens to ways that weather affects your life from farming to your grocery bill. Enjoy weather facts, folklore, and fun!

With heavy hearts, we share the news that historical climatologist and immensely entertaining Almanac contributor Evelyn Browning Garriss passed away in late June 2017. Evelyn shared her lifetime of weather knowledge with Almanac editors and readers, explaining weather phenomena in conversation and expounding on topics in articles for the print edition of The Old Farmer’s Almanac as well as in these articles. We were honored to know and work with her as her time allowed, which is to say when she was not giving lectures to, writing articles for, and consulting with scientists, academia, investors, and government agencies around the world. She will be greatly missed by the Almanac staff and readers.