Signs of spring

I know it doesn't feel like spring on the East Coast of the US, what with the big snow day yesterday. But it's been in the 60's here for the past three days, and in the 50's before that. At my elevation (6800 feet), the snow is gone except in the shade and on north-facing slopes. It's nice, but worrisome: my mountains are the headwaters of the Rio Grande and part of the Colorado, and our snow is the water supply for cities and farms from Texas to California. March is supposed to be the big snow month here. We'll see.

In the meantime, I'm watching spring arrive. And this year, I'm going to try to turn my random observations into data.

The USA National Phenology Network is looking for people to go outside, look at plants, and keep track of when they leaf out, bloom, bear fruit, and lose their leaves. If enough people make careful observations, it should be possible to test whether climate change is affecting plants, and in what way. Some of the plants that they're monitoring are adapted to particular climates; some are widespread weeds. (I'm planning to monitor dandelions and aspen, because I know what they look like, and they're in my yard.) I hope I can convince my 5-year-old to join me - this seems like a great project for kids - but he might prefer to draw pictures on the driveway.

As of today, there is some kind of grass starting to poke up, and the dandelions seem to ready to go, too. The aspens don't show any signs of leaves yet (and one was girdled by deer this winter, though its clones look healthy). The phenology project isn't keeping track of animals yet, but I've been noticing them. A vole stuck its head out of the ground while we watched through a window, some finches are thinking hard about nesting in an old hanging flower pot, and the red-winged blackbirds are making a lot of noise in the wetland across the road.

The human animals are acting like it's spring, too. During my run on Sunday, I saw:

- two groups of children doing experimental hydrology, one in a gully running through a playground, and another in snowmelt that was running down the road;

- one grey-haired man sitting outside, reading, without a shirt;

- and...


...the beginnings of spring training for kindergarteners.

I don't think the phenology network will ever have a category for those observations, though.

More like this

Working! Welcome on board! Wish it was springtime here...

I noticed it was in the 50's in Crestone Colorado, where I have land.
I will be checking this blog out on a regular basis.

By Hightrekker (not verified) on 03 Mar 2009 #permalink

Welcome to science blogs! Must say though, no signs of spring where I'm sitting. Bushfires are still burning after our dry summer....

Ah, good, your comments are working ...

So, welcome to Scienceblogs! Geologists ROCK!!!

Just remember, snow is atmosphere-condensed falling rock. Welcome to scibbles, better than cold oatmeal, I've heard.

Spring!? I swear winter is just starting here in Northern California...

Hooray geology! Looking forward to reading more.

I'll second Carlie's "Hooray geology!"!! And thanks for the tip about the USA Nation Phenology site--I like keeping track of our native plants anyway. It'll be nice to know the info will be of some use.

We skipped spring and went right into summer. 90 here in Phoenix on Sunday, but it should cool off into the upper 70's again before the weekend. I'd love to live someplace where it was cool enough to light a fire in the fireplace without leaving all the windows open.

Hi Kim and welcome to Sciborgs! Interesting topic for your first post, at least to me. Although I eventually degreed in Geology at Morris, Mn (UMM - PZ's school), I worked in the Bio department for most of my 4 years there. In summers I worked for Dr. Ellen Ordway on a Nature Conservancy funded study of the native prairie bits around Morris. Phenology was one of the main things we gathered data on(Phenology and insects, Ellen was an entomologist, bees in particular). Cool thing is that this was way back in 1976-1979, so if they've kept it up, there could be some interesting ecological data relating to climate change over a pretty long period. Ellen is still there, Prof Emeritus, so maybe she's still involved. Next time I'm up that way, I may have to check on her, I'm in Dallas now.

By chuckgoecke (not verified) on 03 Mar 2009 #permalink

You have been assimilated. Welcome. :D

I might pop in and ask random questions from time to time depending on whether or not I run into the old "The Grand Canyon was caused by the flood in the Noah's Ark story" claim in the near future. Most of it will involve erosion rates and plate tectonics. :P

Best blog title ever.

Lately I've been getting most of my geology from one-time oil company cartographer. I'll be happy to check this out.

By freelunch (not verified) on 03 Mar 2009 #permalink

Nice Title!

By sparkomatic (not verified) on 03 Mar 2009 #permalink

I don't know much 'bout geology, but that's ok, Igneous is bliss.

"Hi" from The Rock, Kim.

No bad geological term puns from me, but it's great to see another new (and potentially interesting) face. I look to hear more from you.

Borg +1

Yaay. I'm bookmarking it to read, I may go over to the Phenology network and start keeping track.

We've had extreme ups and downs, though the low extremes (temps at 0) were around the solstice, the high extremes have been in the past couple of weeks.

My cherry tree has buds, and I've had a bunch of feathery winter visitors getting a nip of spring, as well as Mr. and Mrs. Cardinal staking out the territory for their annual brood. The wrens and nuthatches are the funniest, wrens because they're so teensy and aggressive, the nuthatch, well because they can scramble around upside down, rightside up, etc.

So Hi, welcome! I look forward to reading your blog. And I hail from Kansas City, MO. I live in an urban forest near the center of town (Hyde Park), and we have a wide variety of wildlife for being smack in the middle of urbia.

By Paula Helm Murray (not verified) on 03 Mar 2009 #permalink

" test test 12 12 "

I believe you meant test test one two, one two

By capnpeacock (not verified) on 03 Mar 2009 #permalink

Thanks for a blog title easy to spell and pronounce.

By ThirtyFiveUp (not verified) on 03 Mar 2009 #permalink

awesome title

By discobiscuit (not verified) on 03 Mar 2009 #permalink


Welcome here, with high hopes that you will educate our igneous, and therefore help us metamorph into more knowledgeable, & therefore more appreciative, beings.

There, I've sed all I ment to.

(Is there a reason that geology is the most punnable of all the sciences?)

I have moderate amateur enthusiasm for geology and <3 clever puns. :3

Incidentally, while I can't vouch for the East Coast, here in California it doesn't feel like spring. The seasons here are Summer, More Summer, Alternating Rain and Summer, and Early Autumn.

Don't discount your sprog as an assistant, small kids spot things we miss.

Down here in the very southwest corner of the continental United States we've had a few days when daytime temperatures got up into the 70s on the coast, in the 80s inland. Summer weight clothing has made an early appearance. Climate is a prime example of why it is harder working with complicated things than it is with the merely complex.

Welcome, professor! I think it's really gneiss that you've been invited to Sb, but don't take any schist from these people. We all have our faults but I am delighted to have a Colorado colleague bringing me natural history news from the motherland. Welcome!

Just what the world needs. Another geologist blogger. My topics are predominately on Canadian politics, however (weird, eh?). The world will be better off with more rock blogging.

Love the blog name.

Welcome, Kim! Your blog title expresses not only a seismic tectonicity, but the elements of a subtle subductivism as well. Seriously, though, I do like your style.

Welcome to Sb! I'm one of the guys who dig the stuff sitting on top of the geology. Very rarely we get to go beneath some late Quaternary stuff that's accreted on archaeological strata that we want to look at. And we're always very happy to work with petrologists, tephrologists and geologists studying shore displacement.

The blossoming plums are doing their thing in Las Vegas, but some of them seem to be taking their time budding. Some are fully blooming and others are still expanding their buds. It actually seems to be a little later this year.

And a special song for spring by Tom Lehrer, you know what he wants to do, don't you?

By natural cynic (not verified) on 03 Mar 2009 #permalink

Spring is a distance off in Hawai'i, lemme tell you. Overnight lows dropping into the low 60s, about 10 degrees below normal.

We have lots of geology here, though, both Ê»AÊ»Ä and PÄhoehoe. And a nice active volcano on the Big Island, too.

Welcome. Does anyone know if there are any astrophysicists on SB?

Nice title, here, about half a mile from the last resting place of Cole Younger, most of the exposed geology is sedimentary, limestone with the occasional crinoid fossil. First robin was february 11, snowbirds have adorned the yard and anointed my car most of the winter.

In 1950's West Tisbury, MA, I was one of 24 students in Priscilla Fischer's one-room school. We were her phenological eyes throughout town. Each spring, the kids would bring in first blooms whenever they were found. Thus we learned the names of plants, and where to look for them. And to love spring. Too bad the information was kept on the blackboard.

Hi. PZ directed me here. Happy to see a new geo-blog. I'll be a regular viewer.

Sharon - geologist, Pennsylvania

Welcome to ScienceBlogs! Love the blog title.

Oh yeah, asad is right: Best blog title ever! Good start! Go Kim!

By Florian Holl (not verified) on 04 Mar 2009 #permalink

Welcome to Scienceblogs! I've always loved your blog title.

The crocuses were starting to poke out here before the snow got dumped on them - though not as much snow here in Philly as some other areas got. It's already starting to melt off - yay! and warm temps in sight for the weekend! double yay! Spring can't be far off!

Welcome aboard, Kim!

As a long time reader (occasional commenter) at the old blog I have to say that I'm happy to see you here! Go forth and spread geology to the masses.

By Thomas M. (not verified) on 04 Mar 2009 #permalink

you saw a vole? yeah! (I work with voles and get giddy at any mention of them). This is a great citizen science project. Thanks for posting this. I'll be encouraging my readers to do the same. perfect.

How far did you run on Sunday? Fwiw, I ran 12.9 miles, through Golden Gate Park to the ocean, and up past the Cliff House and then back to the Castro through the Park etc. Sadly, I didn't notice any signs of Spring, except for those on my block (the Cherry blossums have bloomed awfully early this year). I'll think about the signs of Spring as I run this weekend around the Hampton Coliseum. Thank you.

By Charlie Dirksen (not verified) on 04 Mar 2009 #permalink

Thanks for all the welcomes.

Alan Kellogg - I hope that the sprog will observe with me, but sometimes he has to watch me do something for a while before he decides it looks like fun.

DNLee - I'm pretty sure it was a vole. (Kind of roundish mouse-like critter, short tail.) My cat used to catch voles when she was young, crazy, and allowed outside.

Charlie - I'm only running about 5-6 miles these days. I've been out of shape, and don't have a long-race goal right now. But since it's just the beginning of March, I could probably work up to a half-marathon this summer. I don't think I'm going to try a marathon again - it beat me up too much.


'The USA National Phenology Network..??'

You wanna read the bumps on our heads..?? Good thing I keep my balding head shorn very close.

Oh wait . . .'Phenology'. D'oh..!!



Spring? Winter? Wait... those must be those "season" things I hear so much about.

I live on the Texas Gulf coast, and we only have two seasons here: wet/hot, and equally wet/very slightly less hot. W do occasionally get sudden temperature drops of 30 or 40 degrees that last a few hours or a few days, though. It snowed during one of them this year.

Congratulations on your move to ScienceBlogs Kim! Looking forward to more great posts and discussions of teaching methods. You are an inspiration to us!