Spring has sprung in the Smokies. Daffodils have popped up, trees are budding, and grass is sprouting green but that’s not necessarily a good thing. For a lot of the country spring has arrived about 3 weeks too soon, a growing result of climate change according to a recent study shared by the US Geological Survey. Looking at data spanning the past 112 years, the study found that spring has been advancing in 76% of the nation’s national parks. And more than half of all parks are experiencing what’s classified as “extreme early springs”, including an “extreme early first bloom” here in the Smokies.
So what does that “extreme early spring” mean for the Smokies? Well, early springs are sometimes followed by sudden frosts or droughts later in the summer, which can effect wildlife and their natural food supplies. In recent years, we have seen first-hand the impact changes to the park’s mast crop (nuts and berries) can have on black bears. The onset of warm weather is also associated with the reemergence of disease-carrying insects, like ticks and mosquitoes, the bane of summer hikers.
Park visitation also increases as the temperature climbs, which can mean longer visitation seasons and a higher toll taken on park operations and facilities, including projects that your donations to Friends of the Smokies help fund. This impact is especially true for parks with natural seasonal attractions like the Smokies’ wildflowers.
So plan your next trip to the Smokies with the weather and climate in mind. Pack your patience during peak visitation periods along with extra water and sunscreen for your warm-weather outdoor activities.