This winter has been exceptionally mild in New England. There are daffodil shoots already pushing up through the soil in my yard. There have been many warm days and cool nights, more typical of March than midwinter, and in late January the maple sap started to run. The Concord Monitor has the story:
"(Barry) Rock is a professor of natural resources at the University of New Hampshire. Rock said New England warmed by 2 degrees Fahrenheit in the 20th century and average winter temperatures rose 4 degrees. A 2001 report assessing the effect of potential climate change in New England, of which Rock was a co-author and editor, showed that between 1920 and 1960 the United States produced 80 percent of the world's maple syrup, most of which came from New York and New England. Canada produced the other 20 percent. Now, those percentages have reversed. About a third of that change can be attributed to climate change, Rock said. Demographic changes are also factors.
An unpredictable tapping season makes it difficult for farmers to get optimum collection, particularly of the lighter syrup, he said. Plus, trees need prolonged periods of cold to convert their starches to sugar and produce sweet sap, he said. Rock said the warming trend will continue because of human-induced global warming. In 100 years, he said, average New England temperatures will be between 6 and 10 degrees warmer. With 6 degrees of change, New England would feel the way Richmond, Va. does now, Rock said. With 10 degrees, this climate would be like Atlanta's.
"You know that they don't do a lot of tapping of maple trees in Richmond or Atlanta," Rock said. "
Many climate change models predict that sugar maple will no longer be viable in New England forests by the end of this century, with a species range that constricts northward into Canada. Aside from the substancial economic and cultural impact of the loss of this emblematic tree, there would be dramatic ecological consequences from a maple retreat due to climate change.