Cotton What?!? In Late May?!?

It’s late May, 2023. We’re now 5 inches behind our normal precipitation count, and recently experienced almost 5 days of 90s, experiencing a sustained 30 degree jump in temperature overnight. Now, we’re back down to our normal 60s/70s temps, with a little bit of rain to keep the seedlings damp. However, the heat took it’s toll and signaled many species into overdrive months early. The black cottonwoods are releasing seed, casting a snowy scene across the landscape. This beautiful event is surreal, and because it should be happening in July, premature- a whole season before it’s normal reproductive cycle. I’ve never witnessed this occurrence in our ecosystem. Several other species are also blooming out early, and a few non-native species, like magnolia, are shedding leaves. It’s going to be a stressful summer for our flora, and fauna.

Remember we had 90s in October, 2022? Now there are back in May? This heat stress is taking its toll, along with the continued drought. Our orchard and gardens are already on full irrigation, and we’re not expecting things to get wetter as the season changes. Altocumulus cloud scapes tease of moisture moving on over the mountains and falling far from here in thunderstorms. We’ve had a few epic weather moments, like a showy lightning storm and 2am hail event like nothing I’ve ever experienced in 15 years living in this area. I’d put this May cottonwood seed release in the same category, and it’s just as unnerving as any storm. This event signals a warning of worse to come. Climate cycles are ever more dramatic and impactful around the world. Here in Western Washington, watching a temperate rainforest shifting into eventual oak savanna, with conditions more like California, is compelling. Seeing the slow motion collapse speeding up into real time catastrophic failure is horrific. Planting more oaks, digging more swales, and encouraging canopy to protect the soil will continue to be our main mission of adaptability here at EEC Forest Stewardship.

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