Never mind mellow fruitfulness: autumn leaves refuse to go brown

A A A

Early morning mist rises in a wood at Woburn Abbey. The first shafts of muted sunlight strike the green leaves. It could be the start of a late summer's day.

Early morning mist rises in a wood at Woburn Abbey. The first shafts of muted sunlight strike the green leaves. It could be the start of a late summer's day.

In fact, this was happening yesterday, in the middle of what should be autumn. A handful of turning leaves, only visible on close examination, provide a clue to the true season.

The picture provides dramatic evidence of what is an extraordinarily late autumn, part of a thorough disruption of the seasons that is already taking place as a result of global warming. Already the traditional British winter has virtually melted away, while spring is getting steadily earlier.

Now scientific evidence has shown for the first time that autumn is getting later and later in Britain as the climate heats up.

Dr Tim Sparks, of the official Institute of Terrestrial Ecology, said that new research, presented at an international conference in Munich earlier this month, has shown that autumn in Britain is arriving two days later every decade.

By studying when leaves turn brown and fall it has found that the season has lagged by nearly a week since measurements began 30 years ago.

This year, he added, the unseasonably mild and wet weather had delayed it even further. "I am surprised at how green it is," he said. "And there are blackberries for picking as far north as Aberdeen."

At the same time, he said, research shows that spring is advancing even faster, arriving six days earlier every decade, as the world becomes warmer.

Butterflies like the red admiral and the comma are on average out and about two weeks earlier than they were in the 1970s, and last year the National Trust gardens in Cornwall were blooming so freely in February that they opened to the public early.

Eleven of the last 13 winters were officially classified as warm. Windermere, which used to freeze partially for 10 days each winter, has now been ice-free for a decade.

Putting the two trends together, Dr Sparks said, the research showed that the growing season has increased by 24 days over the past three decades, a dramatic change in the British climate.

And the stag at Woburn goes on dreaming in his green autumn.

* This week's weather is expected to continue mild in England and Wales.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Experienced Bookkeeper - German Speaking - Part Time

£23000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This firm of accountants based ...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Manager

£30000 - £38000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are a financial services c...

Ashdown Group: Field Service Engineer

£30000 - £32000 per annum + car allowance and on call: Ashdown Group: A succes...

Recruitment Genius: Sales & Marketing Co-Ordinator

£15000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Well established small company ...

Day In a Page

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

The acceptable face of the Emirates

Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk
Nepal earthquake: One man's desperate escape from Everest base camp after the disaster

Escape from Everest base camp

Nick Talbot was sitting in his tent when the tsunami of snow and rock hit. He was lucky to live, unlike his climbing partner just feet away...
Adopting high fibre diet could dramatically cut risk of bowel cancer, says study

What happened when 20 Americans swapped diets with 20 Africans?

Innovative study in the US produces remarkable results
Blake Lively and 'The Age of Adaline': Gossip Girl comes
of age

Gossip girl comes of age

Blake Lively is best known for playing an affluent teenager. Her role as a woman who is trapped forever at 29 is a greater challenge
Goat cuisine: Kid meat is coming to Ocado

Goat cuisine

It's loved by chefs, ethical, low in fat and delicious. So, will kid meat give lamb a run for its money?
14 best coat hooks

Hang on: 14 best coat hooks

Set the tone for the rest of your house with a stylish and functional coat rack in the hallway
Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?