'Green up' gets an early start this season
Temperatures trending above normal across much of Alaska prompted snow to melt ahead of schedule this season, with breakup making an early appearance across much of Southcentral. As this continues, plants are also beginning springtime "green up" ahead of schedule.
"Green up" is a term used to describe the time when trees and bushes turn buds into leaves and grass changes color. The transition happens quick in Alaska. In the course of just a few days, things go from brown to green.
While the refreshed greenery breathes new life into many Alaskans, the impacts stretch beyond that of our spirits.
Leaves play a significant role in our water cycle. As trees and grass lift the moisture from the soil to the leafy green portions of the plant to aid in photosynthesis, that moisture transpires into the air, which increases the humidity.
Added humidity from leaves makes it feel warmer for us and helps us hold on to daytime heat after the sun sets.
Plus, it mitigates wildfire danger. The time between when the snow melts and when "green up" occurs is part of fire season in Alaska. Leftover dry grass, leaves and fallen branches make the perfect fuel for wildfires. As leaves pop and grass turns green, fuel sources are taken away from potential wildfires.
"Green up" brings with it many positive aspects, but along with that come some downsides.
When leaves pop out from buds on trees, syrup production season ends for those harvesting birch syrup in the state. Just a few short days after the leaves pop, birch pollen spikes — reminding allergy sufferers of the pain forgotten in the dead of winter.
Around Anchorage and the Mat-Su, signs of an early "green up" are present to the trained eye. Flowering trees have blossomed, the once closed buds are starting to stretch, and the forest has a slight green hue.
A couple of weeks ahead of schedule, "green up" is already upon us.
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