We are well into the throes of 2018 and already it is proving to be a whirlwind for people and the planet. But every year, we take a moment to look back on what our community saw and compare to the bigger picture trends:
We watched as the ISeeChange community veered from one record breaking extreme to the next, and all this proved to be extra expensive. According to NOAA’s National Center for Environmental Information, 2017 was the third warmest year on record – EVER – next to 2016 and 2012. But 2017 distinguished itself as the costliest year on record too with 16 disaster events that racked up costs of over a billion dollars each. From crop losses, to virulent fire seasons, to floods and hurricanes, these extreme events all together cost the country $306 billion.
Here’s a quick recap of all 2017’s weird weather from your front steps. Your posts became the stories that are helping us better understand how climate change impacts real people, every day, all over the world.
Take a minute to reflect – how does your today compare to last year? Have you been reporting the same phenomena and seeing patterns? Did we miss anything? You can post anything on ISeeChange.org from anytime, just change the date. Every post counts to tell the bigger picture stories from your back yard- season to season, year to year.
2017’s Winter weirdness – did it even come at all?
Last year’s no-show winter may seem like a distant memory compared to this year’s holiday Arctic blasts and blizzards, but that wasn’t at all the case last winter. (Note: in some areas of the West, we’re still watching for snow to show up in 2018–so stay tuned for more on that soon).
On March 6, 2017, ISeeChanger Matt Faulkner from Rochester Hills, Michigan wrote, “This has been the year without a winter in southeast Michigan.”
In Aspen, Colorado IseeChanger Amber Kleinaman noticed the warmer weather made for lousy snow conditions for champion skiiers at the World Cup Finals.
I worked the World Cup Finals in Aspen Colorado last weekend. The temperature was 55 degrees every day. Which makes lousy conditions to ski. This event has not been held in Aspen for 50 years. I wonder what the temps will be like in another 50 years.
In Wichita, Kansas, Jessica Maldonado wondered if she’d ever get to share a snowy winter with her son.
tulips tulips tulips!! I have five tulips full size in the front yards, and nearly fully bloomed trees, buds on others throughout the neighborhood. Wichita has been in this “early spring” for a few weeks now. Not one snow storm.
Growing up in the early 90s, friends would have to cancel making the trek through the winter storms of February to attend my birthday party (17th) because there were so many feet of snow and ice, they were barricaded in.
I can’t remember the last time I had the opportunity to pull out my old snow bibs and build a fort. I bought my now nearly four year old a pair of his own, excited to really share in some quality snow fun. We are still waiting for those memorable snow storms…
In Hebron, Connecticut, students at Rham Middle School noticed that their winter temperatures came in swings between snow and rain. They also noticed they were getting sick more than usual, so the ISeeChange team checked it out.
In Philadelphia, Kyle Johnson’s neighbors enjoyed ice cream on a warm February day.
Record high February temperatures made it hot enough for volleyball in New England.
While record warm sea surface temperatures made it warm enough for swimming in New Jersey.
While winter in many parts of the country was mild and even snow-less. California finally got the kind of winter they’d been missing through the six year drought that began in 2011, as noted by ISeeChanger Paul Senyszyn.
Spring showed up early
With that frost-free season lengthening it comes as no surprise that spring this year arrived earlier than what was historically normal nationwide in 2017.
In late January, William Lorch found his garlic plants sending up shoots at his Joliet, Illinois home. “This usually happens mid to late April in this region,” he wrote.
Both the Southeast and the Southwest were weirdly warm and dry last January, throwing their respective agricultural seasons into turmoil as crops bloomed and developed too early.
You may not remember with the lettuce crisis of 2017 thanks to Arizona’s runaway season, but restaurant staff across the country certainly do. An early spring brought problems for Kevin Siddons in Pennsylvania and caught the eyes of Adam Mackinnon in Georgia:
All that warmth and early blooming in Georgia destroyed a whopping 85% of the peach crop and walloped blueberries too. These agricultural losses became among the first of the 16 billion-plus-dollar disasters in 2017.
Streets flooded across the country
Adding to the billion-dollar disaster tab came an extremely wet spring and summer across most of the United States, like in Brooklyn, Ohio and Atlanta, Georgia:
In May, New Orleanian Destiney Bell posted that the intersection outside her house turned into a lake after just a little rain.
This is the intersection I live at, and also my driveway. This flooding happens every single time it rains. This is after only 30 minutes of rain. Having a two year old, this is dangerous for him. The debris from the road also ends up in my yard after storms. It’s also a school bus stop, so kids waiting here for the bus are exposed to these conditions.
New Orleans continued to flood all summer breaking records. ISeeChange set up an investigation in the Gentilly neighborhood to better understand the areas that flood the most and cause the most issues. Working with community-sourced stories and data, we successfully modeled the city’s flash flood events. Stay tuned for our flooding investigation results coming soon!
With landscapes refreshed after year-long droughts, spring greenery in California and the Pacific Northwest created dangerous fire conditions.
ISeeChange posts from the Northwest were dominated by wildfires in early fall. Schools in Portland, Oregon shut down due to smokey air and skies were hazy.
We looked into the impact that wildfires have on public health and learned the consequences of breathing in wildfire particles. A few months later, Southern California faced devastating wildfires which ISeeChanger Marc Federman recorded fires ablaze in Los Angeles.
Hurricane season came with a vengeance
August and September brought a constant barrage of hurricanes: Harvey, Irma, and Maria. There were devastating floods on Houston and other parts of coastal Texas.
The MDA Medical Center on Holcombe Blvd., including the trauma center and hospitals, are surrounded in water: a code gray according to an ISeeChanger in Houston and local news. Local apartments are flooded; residents sharing second floor spaces and sheltering in place.
Adam MacKinnon, posting from Sapelo Island, Georgia, witnessed beach erosion in his area.
Severe Beach erosion From Hurricane Irma on Sapelo Island, Georgia. These were taken from one of our Picture Posts on Nannygoat Beach. The post were installed after Hurricane Mathew and shows a period of steady accretion followed by severe erosion incurred from Hurricane Irma. This view is looking Southwest.
Picture dates Picture Dates: 2016 (11/10, 11/28), 2017 (2/24, 7/24, 8/1, 9/7, 9/18)
A warm and colorless fall
For our contingent of New England ISeeChangers, fall temperatures were mild and tree leaves didn’t change with the same vibrancy as usual.
At Judy Donnelly’s home in Connecticut, the first frost of the fall didn’t come until November 9.
First frost. This is extremely late for first frost which historically has been mid October. We always brought our “winter clothes” up from the basement in late September to be ready for the chill. This year we’ve pulled out a few sweatshirts but the sweaters and long sleeve tees are still packed away. On the plus side, I picked peppers and figs yesterday before the frost. But we’ve had insect pests I’ve never seen before while old familiars, like the katydids in the oak trees, were conspicuously absent. Here’s a good summary of first/last frost dates from an AP article http://wtnh.com/2017/10/27/science-says-jack-frost-nipping-at-your-nose-ever-later/
In Ontario, Canada, Brenda Whittaker reported that, “The colours of our leaves this fall were not as vibrant in this area. Warmer than usual temperatures. Lots of leaves still on the trees.”
Coniferous trees are ladened with cones. The mountain ash (deciduous) trees have produced a high number of berries. These pictures don’t capture the high number of berries and cones being produced this season. I don’t recall seeing this many of them in my life time. We had a wet spring that spilled into part of the summer. Temperatures were seasonal. The month of September was very hot. We’ve had very little change in the colour of our leaves. Usually we are experiencing beautiful reds/yellow/orange leaves from our maple trees and other deciduous.
An ISeeChanger from Massachusetts saw snakes sunning themselves on an warm mid-October day.
Weird bugs and sea critters on the move
A tally of more than 4,000 species reveals that land species are moving an average of more than 10 miles per decade due to climate change, while marine species are moving four times faster. ISeeChangers have definitely been noticing:
Caiti Weiser in New Jersey saw ticks on her dogs, earlier than ever — months before experts began warning 2017 would be a top year for Lyme disease:
— Caiti Weiser
Meanwhile Gypsy moths continued to torment the Northeast and we took a closer look into it.
In Marlborough, Connecticut, the gypsy caterpillars devoured our trees. My mother observed when walking in the woods that sections that should have provided ample shade either offered none or only speckles. However, the trees in a Rochester, New York are lush and have had no visible attack on their foliage. This is a picture of a tree in a Rochester after a brief sunshower. In Marlborough and Rochester both, there has been on and off rain. I observed a sunshower in Marlborough, on the way to a Rochester, and in Rochester, when I typically do not see any anywhere at all. Also, I was tearing up the shoots underneath a tree. The shoots had been torn up before with ease, but were very woody and supple this time and hard to saw off. However, I started cutting one of the thicker shoots, went inside for lunch, and came out after about thirty minutes in which it had rained again. The shoot was much weaker and very easy to snap and tear after this, and broke off in about two minutes rather than twenty. I am not sure if it was easier because I had started cutting it beforehand, because of the rain, or because of both.
Entirely new species, like Tiger Mosquitoes, also showed up in neighborhoods.
— Mike R
In other areas, bugs that were usually present, were no-shows:
What I don’t hear: Katydids! Every year from August until frost we used to hear them in the tree tops, the song getting slower and slower as the night temperature dropped. The first songs were a (not totally pleasant) reminder that summer was ending and school just around the corner. The slow chirps of late October were a sign that winter would soon be here.
With ocean surface temperatures still anomalously warm through out the year — particularly on the East and Gulf Coast— ISeeChangers also noted strange sightings at sea. Like beached whales and octopus in North Carolina:
Juvenile sperm whale beached on Oak Island. He was emaciated and had an abnormal large bump on his abdomen. Was unable to get back out to sea and was unfortunately euthanized. Necropsy being performed to learn more.
— Hannah Heniford
Several octupus sightings on the West end of Oak Island. Specifically near a recently dredged inlet close to Lockwood Folly river. Also crazy swinging temperatures (30 degrees up and down over 2-3 days) and rough seas with longshore currents. No worries…octupus was not harmed and returned to the ocean.
A little further South, ace observer Adam Mackinnon noted crabs on the move and sticking around.
Atlantic Mangrove Fiddler crabs are now firmly established on Sapelo Island, Georgia.
In yet another sign of global change, the Atlantic Mangrove Crab has slowly been expanding its range north. This is a range expansion and closely mirrors the range expansion of the mangroves tree. This species is much larger than the indigenous species inhabiting the coast and has the potential to out compete these smaller fiddler crabs.
Finally, the weather wasn’t just strange in the United States. The international ISeeChange community kept us posted on what climate change looks like in their countries too. We saw passion fruit growing with extra passion this winter in England:
Canadian ISeeChangers spotted mushrooms mushrooming in numbers and spotted Poison Ivy on the march:
Poison Ivy weed (Produces mild to severe skin symptoms. These symptoms can exacerbate to an infection. It needs to be managed well. Pets can carry the poison on the fur/skin; therefore, transferring it to humans or they might suffer from the effects.) This plant usually grows in the forests of northern Ontario. I have walked and biked this central Ontario trail for over 30 yrs. without seeing this plant. It was not a concern in our area. It is now growing in central Ontario. Ontario has experienced lots of rain this year and a drought last year. Not sure if this is a contributing factor.
We were alerted that Sweden— just like New England — is on high alert for deforestation thanks to moths:
By the summer, Europe was in the throws of an extreme heat — dubbed “Lucifer” from the UK to Stockholm and Eastern Europe.
Lots of warmth makes for drought and we saw it in both Sri Lanka and Kenya (more on this soon!)
Drought in the mid and northern north central parts of Sri Lanka causing tanks and lakes to dry up. This is a common site these days in northern and north central sri lanka due to lack of sufficient rain
Finally dust storms made for uncomfortable commutes in Kuwait.
— Uma Dotc
Looking to 2018
In the coming year we will continue to watch your posts to identify climate issues that people around the world are facing. Often ISeeChangers are noticing important trends long before scientists, governments, and mainstream media.
As we barrel into an already eventful 2018, we want to know what’s happening in your backyard, so keep posting!
Story by Samantha Harrington for ISeeChange in Partnership with Yale Climate Connections