The grass is unusually green this winter and snowdrops and primroses were in bloom as early as December. Bees have been enticed out of hives and storks failed to make their journey south. The unseasonably warm weather is causing confusion everywhere.
Data from the Environment Agency (ARSO) shows that 2022 was the warmest year on record in Slovenia with the average temperature reaching 10.8 degrees Celsius, almost two degrees above the 1981-2010 average. The average temperature was almost 0.1% above the previous record annual temperature measured in 2014.
It was warmer than average in all seasons and nine out of 12 months were warmer than usual. Temperatures exceeded the long-term average by almost 3 degrees in summer, and in autumn and winter it was two degrees warmer than usual. In spring the mercury was about half a degree above average.
The unseasonably warm weather continues into the new year and even though the forecast is for temperatures to drop this week there is no major cold spell in sight.
It is not just warm winter that affects flora and fauna. Andreja Sušnik, an agrometeorologist with ARSO, says that plants, mainly perennials, have a memory of what the weather was like throughout the year and they accommodate accordingly.
“Since early December we’ve been able to see shifts in vegetation such as blooms that we usually wouldn’t see before spring. Snowdrops and daisies were in bloom in December, as were some decorative plants, dandelion, and there were insects in the air too,” Sušnik told the STA.
Since temperatures can still drop, the premature budding means that the plants will be less resistant to adverse effects and that they use up energy and reserves at an inappropriate time. The reserves should serve them to develop in spring and grow,” says Sušnik.
The same holds for crops. In case of a cold snap, which is all but certain, winter and perennial plants such as fruit trees are at greater risk of being damaged by frost if they develop too early. Another problem is that pests will develop in the warm weather.
In this warm weather nature does not get to rest and plants and animals are active virtually throughout the year. Several generations of bark beetle will develop and other insects, which usually spend the winter hibernating, have woken up and there are mosquitoes in some places.
Moles are active, and so are earthworms. The grass is growing and farmers have been able to harvest it at what is unusual time of year. Sušnik has also noted that populations wild animals in forests have increased and she is concerned about dry spring because of a lack of snow.
“The problem of warm winters is multifaceted, it doesn’t affect just skiers but all life. It certainly isn’t something beneficial,” she says.
High temperatures do not benefit bees either. Enticed out of their hives they fly about looking for pollen and nectar, using up valuable energy.
A few warm days will not do them harm because they can make cleansing flights, which benefits the bee family’s health. However, if the warm spell continues, they will use up their food reserves, Vlado Auguštin of the Slovenian Beekeeping Association has warned.
Birds too are changing their habits due to ever warmer weather. The Bird Watching Association (DOPPS) has recently told TV Slovenija that as many as 12 storks opted to spend the winter in Slovenia this year, the largest number yet.
“As winters get increasingly mild, they have found they have a better chance of survival here than if they made the journey to Africa,” Urša Gajšek of DOPPS said, explaining that because it is warm enough storks can find enough food to survive.