All through the beginning of March while it was still winter, it was spring.

Snow completely disappeared from the woods in the first week of the month. This never happened here before, that I can remember. Rags and patches under the canopy almost always last well into April, sometimes May. This year mud season in the driveway seemed to be over by the time it’s usually cracking open around the second week of the month.

A view of winter following spring in Troy last week. Photo by Dana Wilde

The vernal equinox arrived like a thief in the night at 11:06 p.m. March 19, calendrically a couple dates earlier than normal. And then, a tick or two into spring, winter hit. First it staggered in from the upside down and dumped about 6 inches of snow on the deck and driveway. I told Nick the plow guy not to come because he would probably plow more gravel than snow in the fully thawed driveway. He agreed.

Then a few days later an even heavier mid-winter storm tore in. The electricity stayed on in Troy, but the plow had to intervene. New divots and clots of gravel got ripped out of ground that is normally frozen for this. Now, it’s mud season again.

It’s not like snowstorms in the middle of March are unusual. So last week’s blasts were kind of comforting, in a demented way. Something you could call normal for March. Unlike bare woods and pileups of 50-degree days.

In February, the average temperature in the contiguous U.S. was 7.2 degrees Fahrenheit above the 20th-century average, according to NOAA. This meteorological winter — December through February — was the warmest in NOAA’s 130-year climate record, 5.4 degrees above average.


Graphic courtesy of NOAA

That’s the beginning of 2024, when spring stood in for winter, my neighbor found a mourning cloak butterfly in his driveway weeks ahead of schedule, and winter hit the day after spring. Last year, 2023, was the warmest year globally since records began in 1850. More than a quarter of a degree Fahrenheit warmer than the previous record-warmest year in 2016. The climatologists estimate 2023 could well have been “the warmest year in possibly the past 100,000 years,” as Gavin Schmidt, director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, stated it earlier in this upside down month.

“For the past nine months,” he wrote, “mean land and sea surface temperatures have overshot previous records each month by up to 0.2° C — a huge margin at the planetary scale. A general warming trend is expected because of rising greenhouse-gas emissions, but this sudden heat spike greatly exceeds predictions made by statistical climate models.”

So, the climate-change deniers are vindicated. The climatologists have been wrong all along!

The trouble is, the error is in the other direction.

“The 2023 temperature anomaly has come out of the blue,” Schmidt wrote, “revealing an unprecedented knowledge gap perhaps for the first time since about 40 years ago, when satellite data began offering modellers an unparalleled, real-time view of Earth’s climate system. If the anomaly does not stabilize by August … then the world will be in uncharted territory. It could … mean that statistical inferences based on past events are less reliable than we thought, adding more uncertainty to seasonal predictions of droughts and rainfall patterns.”

And snowfalls and melts, and hellacious December storms, and the plow guy not coming down the driveway even once in February, and overwintering butterflies awakening before there’s anything to eat.

I hate the phrase “new normal.” Chaotic, patternless weather is new but it’s not normal and it’s probably not going to get a normal of its own. It’s just going to stagger on through an overall but shifting framework of seasons, with stranger and stranger things piling up and looking like no reality you ever saw in the woods before. Conventional natural rhythms are disappearing. It’s like we’re living inside a science fiction story.

[mtm-related-link url=]Read more columns by Dana Wilde[/mtm-related-link]

It is flaying my mind. There’s no way to know if a summer of rain and lurid, smokey skies is looming again.

Dana Wilde lives in Troy. You can contact him at His book “Summer to Fall: Notes and Numina from the Maine Woods” is available from North Country Press.  Backyard Naturalist appears the second and fourth Thursdays each month.

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