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Global warming brings early spring to Arctic: study

Plants and animals in upper Greenland have adapted their lifecycles to the arrival of the Arctic spring several weeks earlier than a decade ago.

world Updated: Jul 09, 2007 15:15 IST

Plants and animals in upper Greenland have adapted their lifecycles to the arrival of the Arctic spring several weeks earlier than a decade ago.

In a study that underscored the impact of global warming on the northern polar region, researchers discovered that plant, insect and bird life native to the High Arctic had made dramatic seasonal cycle adjustments to the region's earlier snowmelt in the space of just 10 years.

In some cases, flowers are emerging from buds and chicks are hatching a full 30 days sooner than they did in the mid-1990s in response to sharply increased temperatures burning off the winter's snow layer.

Birds such as the Sanderling and the Ruddy Turnstone had moved their springtime rituals forward by an average of two weeks by 2005, compared to 1996.

"Our study confirms what many people already think, that the seasons are changing and it is not just one or two warm years but a strong trend seen over a decade," said Toke Hoye, a researcher with the National Environmental Research Institute at the University of Aarhus in Denmark.

The trend can be traced to the region's earlier spring snowmelt, which occurs about a fortnight earlier than it did a decade ago.

This should serve as an early warning system to the rest of the planet of the scale and pace of climate-related change, the researchers said.

And while not unexpected, the rate of change is surprising, even in light of the fact that Arctic temperatures are increasing at twice the global average.