Spring 2011: An introduction

By Catherine Schmitt, Managing Editor

As I write this, the sun is breaking through the clouds for the first time in a week. The cherry, apple, and shadbush trees are in full bloom, the lilacs are budding, and yellow pollen swirls in the puddles. The first bloom dates, like the arrival of robins, red-winged blackbirds, ospreys, and warblers, are part of the subject of phenology, the study of plant and animal life cycles.

Now, the ritual of watching spring arrive can help scientists understand climate change. A new program coordinated by Cooperative Extension and Maine Sea Grant is recruiting citizen volunteers in a statewide effort called Signs of the Seasons: A Maine Phenology Project. Participants will gather data from their backyards for a national database which is then used by climate researchers around the country. What a great example of thinking globally, acting locally.

In this issue of Maine Climate News we also highlight phenology research by Erin Redding, a graduate student at the University of Maine. Erin is studying the potential effects of air pollution like acid rain on the seasonal cycles of forest trees.

And, for those interested in the seasons in the sea, you can read about ocean acidification in the Climate Highlights section.

Don’t forget to submit your questions to Ask the Climatologist.

Happy Spring!