While the weather has cooled a bit today (Friday), many Iowa cities have been seeing daily high temperatures 20-degrees warmer than normal lately. Rich Patterson, director of the Indian Creek Nature Center in Cedar Rapids, says he’s noticed the trees are being fooled into thinking we’re having an early spring, even though we’re only two weeks into winter.
The trees usually bud in mid to late-March but they’re already budding now in what Patterson says is “incredibly early. It’s weird, it’s eerie, it’s very strange.” He says this warming trend, coupled with several relatively mild winters, could bring some unexpected changes in Iowa’s environment.
Patterson says some noxious weeds that are normally killed off between December and March may come back with a vengeance. Patterson says “Not only is poison ivy more abundant following a series of warm winters but the poison in each individual plant is stronger, more virulent, so that’s something to really look forward to — more potent poison ivy and more of it next summer.”
As for wildlife, he says ticks and chiggers may survive the winter in greater numbers if this pattern persists. Patterson says other wildlife, like deer, squirrels and rabbits are loving the warmer weather. They’re finding food easily, they’re not cold, they’re in better physical condition and they’re not silhouetted against the snow to be more easily seen by predators. He says creatures that should be hibernating, from snakes to groundhogs, might be awakening soon, should the warm spell continue.