A New NASA Map Shows Spring Is Coming Earlier Each Year

iStock
iStock

Climate change is shifting Earth’s seasons. Winters are getting shorter, and the warmth of spring has started to arrive earlier and earlier, messing with the timing of processes like animal migrations and the budding of new plant growth. In a series of graphics spotted by Flowing Data, the NASA Earth Observatory shows how much earlier new leaves are arriving in some parts of the U.S., and how much earlier they reach full bloom.

The data comes from a 2016 study of U.S. national parks, so the maps only cover seasonal changes within the park system. But since there are so many parks spread across the U.S., it’s a pretty good snapshot of how climate change is affecting the timing of spring across the country. The map in green shows the difference in “first leaf” arrival, or when the first leaves emerge from tree buds, and the map in purple shows the arrival of the first blooms.

A map of the U.S. with a colored grid showing where leaves are coming earlier
Joshua Stevens, NASA Earth Observatory

Around 75 percent of the 276 parks analyzed in the study have been experiencing earlier springs, and half had recently seen the earliest springs recorded in 112 years. In Olympic National Park in Washington, the first leaves are now appearing 23 days earlier than they did a century ago, while the Grand Canyon is seeing leaves appear about 11 days earlier. National parks in the Sierras and in Utah are seeing leaves appear five to 10 days earlier, as are areas along the Appalachian Trail. Some parks, however, particularly in the South, are actually seeing a later arrival of spring leaves, shown in dark gray in the graphic.

A map of the U.S. with a colored grid showing where blooms are coming earlier
Joshua Stevens, NASA Earth Observatory

The places that are witnessing earlier first blooms aren't always the ones with extra-early first leaves. The Appalachian Trail is blooming earlier, even though the first leaves aren't arriving any earlier. But in other places, like Olympic National Park, both the first leaves and the first blooms are arriving far earlier than they used to.

“Changes in leaf and flowering dates have broad ramifications for nature,” National Park Service ecologist John Gross explained in the Earth Observatory’s blog. “Pollinators, migratory birds, hibernating species, elk, and caribou all rely on food sources that need to be available at the right time.” When temperatures get out of sync with usual seasonal changes, those species suffer.

[h/t Flowing Data]

The One-Day Record Snowfalls In Each State

Greenseas/iStock via Getty Images
Greenseas/iStock via Getty Images

Long after you’ve grown out of believing in magic, every thick, whirling snowstorm still seems to have been cast upon your town by a winter warlock (or Frozen’s resident ice queen, Elsa).

It’s also pretty magical when those inches of stacked snowflakes add up to a message from your manager telling you not to come into the office. In southern states like Georgia or Florida, sometimes all it takes is a light dusting.

But even those characteristically balmy places have hosted some serious snowstorms over the years, and David Cusick for House Method crunched the numbers to find out which ones made the record books. Using data from the National Centers for Environmental Information, Cusick created a map showing the one-day record snowfall for each state.

Florida finished in last place with a scant total of 4 inches, which occurred in Santa Rosa County on March 6, 1954. About two years before that, on January 14, 1952, Colorado had a staggering 76 inches—that’s more than 3 inches per hour—a national record that’s remained unchallenged for nearly 70 years.

Made with Flourish

But other states have come close. The snowstorm that hit Colorado in 1952 wreaked almost as much havoc in California, whose record from the same day was 75 inches. And Washington saw 70 inches of snow in November 1955, beating its 52-inch record from 1935 by a full 18 inches.

Though Midwestern states have gained a reputation for harsh, snowy winters, their one-day record snowfalls are surprisingly moderate. The Illinois and Indiana records are 24 and 26 inches, respectively, both slightly lower than Ohio’s 30-inch snow day from 1901. In 1993, North Carolina bested Ohio’s record by 6 inches.

Wondering how your individual county’s record compares to the overall state one? Cusick created a map for that, too, which you can explore below.

Made with Flourish

[h/t House Method]

Google Home vs. Alexa: Which Smart Device Does Your State Prefer?

Todd Williamson, Getty Images
Todd Williamson, Getty Images

If you're thinking of buying a loved one a smart home device for the holidays, you're likely considering two options: Google Home ($70)—a series of smart speakers from the tech giant—and Amazon Echo ($80)—which features the virtual voice assistant Alexa. You could do hours of research weighing the pros and cons of each gadget, or you could pick one based on where your giftee lives. The map below from ASecureLife.com breaks down where each state falls in the Google Home versus Alexa debate.

Map of Google Home vs. Alexa searches.
ASecureLife.com

To create the graphic, the home security company analyzed Google trends data related to searches for Google Home and Amazon Alexa in October 2019. The two terms are fairly evenly matched: Google Home just edges out Alexa with 51 percent of the total search volume nationwide compared to Alex's 49 percent.

The two devices are also spread out across the map. On the West Coast, California and Washington prefer Google, while Oregon likes Alexa. In the South, Alexa dominates Florida, Alabama, and North Carolina, while Google takes Mississippi, Georgia, and Tennessee. New England is split between the two: Google wins New Hampshire, Connecticut, and Massachusetts, and Alexa tops searches in Maine, Rhode Island, and Vermont. You can check out the full map above.

Google Home and Amazon Echo share a lot of the same capabilities, like connecting with the internet and other devices to set the thermostat, turn off the lights, play music, and answer questions. If your home state's search trends aren't enough to convince you to choose one over the other, you may have to look at more obscure details, such as which one is better at understanding accents and which has the best jokes.

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