It’s starting to look a lot like spring across central Arkansas. Many trees, shrubs, and flowers are blooming much earlier than they should be.

If you take a short walk around your neighborhood signs of spring are everywhere. Here are just a few photos from around the Arkansas State Capitol.

So, how much earlier than normal is our spring leaf out?

According to the National Phenology Network, Arkansas is seeing spring leaf out nearly three weeks earlier than normal. Arkansas is not alone, the entire south is way ahead of schedule.

CREDIT: USA National Phenology Network

What is causing such an early leaf out this year?

The main driver for leaf out is an increase in daylight hours. This is not the only variable, because if it was leaf out would be on the same day every year. Our weather also impacts when trees and flowers bloom.

The warmer-than-average temperatures we’ve seen this year are why leaf out is weeks ahead of schedule.

The month of January featured 25 days warmer than normal with a temperature of more than 8° warmer than average.

So far in February, 16 days warmer than normal with a temperature of more than 6° warmer than average.

I think the large swing in temperature at the end of December could have impacted our spring bloom. Before Christmas temperatures dropped near 0° for a few days. This was while the trees were in their winter dormancy. Immediately after those arctic conditions temperatures warmed into the 60s and 70s.

Since that cold snap in December Little Rock has only dropped below freezing 9 times, with the coldest temperature of 25° on January 14th. This extremely mild stretch and lack of below-freezing mornings may have tricked the trees to come out of dormancy early.

Other than a longer allergy season there aren’t too many negative impacts of an early leaf out.