Signs of an Early Spring in the Northwest


Sunny Day at Mt. Tabor Park
A Sunny Day at Mt. Tabor Park

Blame climate change. Blame us (recent transplants from the Sunshine State). Blame luck. Whatever the cause, this has been a warm, sunny winter in Portland, Oregon. As newbies here, we feared the long endless weeks of cloudy, cold, rainy days we’d heard so much about. But since we arrived 11 weeks ago, I can count on one hand the number of days the sun hasn’t burst brilliantly shining through our floor-to-ceiling windows! In fact, there have been only five days of below freezing temperatures during the past 3 months – all around the end of December. The skiers and snowboarders hate it, since it hasn’t snowed a lot in the higher elevations either, but we have enjoyed the uncharacteristically warm winter. (Apologies all you folks in the northeast!)

It all seems a little crazy, since Portland lies on the 45th parallel, the same latitude as Ottawa, Canada and The Alps! Sure, Portland’s climate is moderated by its juxtaposition to the Cascades range and the coast, but this winter has been a near-record-breaker for warmth and sunshine. One of the results of all this is the early emergence of signs of spring. By the first week of February we were already seeing iris and daffodil shoots popping up through the wet soil in yards and along sidewalks all over the city.

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This week when temps reached 60 degrees, we saw lots of shirtless people basking in the glorious sunshine up on Mt. Tabor. In the city parks and natural areas, the birds are singing and sporting some breeding plumage. The plants and animals are responding by breaking their own rules. According to Aulani Johnson, Botanic Technician for City of Portland Parks (an amazing naturalist and teacher, by the way), for many years, a native plant here called Indian Plum – the first tree species to “break dormancy” each spring with new leaf buds – has flowered two weeks after its tender, new leaf buds emerge. This year, both flowers and leaf buds emerged simultaneously!

So, it’s a mixed up world out there. Whether all these changes in natural patterns is good or bad – or just is – is yet to be determined. In the meantime, I am enjoying going out each day and finding some new flower or bud or leaf popping up or out on the plants all over the city. New life is everywhere and it gives the whole city a new, awesome feel.

What signs of spring are you seeing in your neighborhood?


  1. Your words and images keep hope alive in the NC Piedmont as we brace for our first wintry mix of rain, sleet, ice and snow and plummeting temps.

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