Hurricane-inspired springtime? - WAFB 9 News Baton Rouge, Louisiana News, Weather, Sports

Hurricane-inspired springtime?

Question:
Have you noticed what I'm going to call "hurricane spring" bursting forth around the area? My job takes me throughout the parish each day and I've spotted lots of new growth, especially bright green foliage, on trees that were whipped by Gustav.
In some cases, buds and flowers have emerged--maybe the plants "thought" they'd been through a turbulent winter and are responding accordingly. Having never witnessed the magnitude of wind velocity we had with Gustav, this is a new observation for me. Do you know if such is documented? Or is my imagination overactive?

 

Answer:
Yep .. new "green" growth everywhere ... and what you're seeing is not unexpected!

We ("people," "civilization") always look at severe weather as catastrophe events, but Mother Nature takes ‘em in stride and "creates" systems around them.  Sometimes, many times in fact, big storms have a natural purpose: it's simply out with the old and in with the new.

Many species of leaf-stripped trees are still "photosynthetically active" (in summer mode) and where leaves are missing, many species will start the process to generate new ones, even in the fall.  That "make new leaves" trigger is disabled by colder weather - or more likely, lower levels of sunshine.  So the tree is designed to keep and/or make leaves as long as a "summer" sun is present.

Producing leaves late in the summer or early fall does stress some of the vegetation, but the impact of this stress may not show up until much later.   In some cases, energy is stored in the plant to get systems going NEXT spring.  So the energy already stored in the past several weeks is being used to make new leaves now, which is late in the growing season.  The questions becomes, does the energy used to make September/October leaves get made up by the new leaf growth?  Or does it take more energy to make whole new leaves this late in the season than the plant will be able to capture with these new leaves before they fall in the winter?  (Our new leaves will not survive through the winter, even though they developed so late in the year.)

But back to the "people issue" - our local environment has a built-in environmental design to "handle" tropical storms.  Part of the design includes "patience" - the environment will heal even if it takes several years - Mother nature has unlimited time to do ‘her' stuff.  We ("people") just don't like that design too much, because it includes toppling aged trees to make room for new ones, and old trees seem to like to fall on houses!

Not unlike what goes on in many of the western states, where some forest tree species actually need occasional forest fires every several years or so to keep the entire forest healthy - that is the design by nature.  But when people build homes in those same forests, they fight/control/stop the fires that the forest needs.

Ultimately, Mother Nature ALWAYS, always wins . . . in the western forests and the Gulf Coast.  Sometimes, we humans are just a little slow (or stubborn, or both?) to get the message!

Jay Grymes
Chief Meteorologist
WAFB Storm Team

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