SOUTHAMPTON scientists have discovered a shift in the seasons, with spring arriving early and autumn being delayed.

Peter Atkinson, professor of geography at the University of Southampton, has examined satellite images of vegetation across the northern hemisphere from the past 25 years and found signs that winter is being shrunk.

Earlier this month supermarkets Waitrose and Tesco both announced that English strawberries were ripening early and hitting the shelves a week earlier than last year.

Prof Atkinson said: “There is much speculation about whether our seasons are changing and if so, whether this is linked to climate change.

“Our study is another significant piece in the puzzle, which may ultimately answer this question.”

The researchers examined a range of vegetation types, with forests which have not been affected by human intervention acting as the best signifier for the changing seasons.

The most pronounced change found by the researchers was in the broad-leaved deciduous and needle-leaved deciduous forest groups, showing that autumn is becoming significantly later, with an early onset of spring.