Tuesday, March 15, 2016

The 2016 Sugaring Season

A short, snow-free sugaring season in southern New England.
 Back around the holidays, I was wondering if the warm winter up to that point would impact maple sugaring. The whole meteorological winter season (December-March) turned out to be very mild, with just a few cold snaps.  Sugar Maples that I tapped in mid-February did produce some good sap runs, so apparently there was enough cold to vernalize the trees and set them up for sap flow. But, the season only lasted about 2-3 weeks, finishing up last week, which is at least three weeks short of a normal season. This was because of continued warmth; we just didn't get the nightly freezes that are needed to get the sap pressurized and moving during the day. The local professionals are also complaining about a short and not very productive sugaring season. Some frosty nights predicted for the weekend might create another sap run, but plants are starting to break dormancy now, and once the maples start budding and flowering, the flow is pretty minimal regardless of the weather, and any sap that does collect is useless for making syrup because it becomes bitter.

Winter 2015-2016 temperature rankings by state, courtesy of NOAA.
It wasn't just warmer than usual this winter in Connecticut, it was the warmest winter in the 121 year  record for all of New England, and way above average for most of the US. Last winter was unusually cold, especially in second half, so the current state of global warming clearly doesn't preclude old-fashioned winters in the Northeast, though it's looking like there will be more and more years where maple sugaring operations are going to have a hard time.