I’m on my way to work when I see a man and his little son suddenly crouching down in front of a heap of brown, dead leaves. Their heads move together, studying something very closely. My curiosity is awaken. What can be so interesting among a bunch of old leaves?
As I get closer, it’s obvious. Bright yellow crocuses glow beneath the brown and grey.
Now, this isn’t just any little yellow flower. This is a Sign of Spring, which in Sweden is something almost sacred.
My blog colleague Kate is in good company when she starts looking for spring signs , since it’s actually something of a folk sport.
This time of the year everyone does it: Children, adults, farmers and city dwellers, newspapers (article in Swedish) and television programs.
There’s even a Phenology Network (Phenelogy, for anyone who hasn’t heard the word before, means “the study of periodic plant and animal life cycle events and how these are influenced by seasonal and interannual variations in climate.”)
This network is founded by universities, museums and the Swedish Meteorological Institute SMHI, and at their web site (in Swedish), people are invited to report their latest spring findings. You can even register as an official Phenology Observer and help collecting information about when the lilac buds will burst, when it’s time for the blueberries and when the leaves will fall from the ash-tree.
This in’t just insteresting for those of us who can’t wait for spring to arrive for real. It’s also an excellent source of data for scientists studying the effects of climate change. For example, we know that both the bird cherry and the lilac blossom about a week earlier in the province of Uppland than they used to do 50 years ago.
This year spring has come unusually early. At the website of SMHI there’s a map showing how far north spring has reached right now. Watch it here. If you press the button saying “Sekvens” it will play the last weeks development.
But perhaps you need to live for while in Sweden to fully understand the drama of that sequence…
Other interesting articles in Swedish media (in Swedish, but can be autotranslated here):
Miljöaktuellt: Swedish research project outlines 7 ways to save Earth
Skånskan: They cycle from Sweden to India