Wednesday, February 1, 2012

The Temperatures, they are a Changing

When we talked to people about our new southern Missouri home almost forty years ago we would brag that there was an occasional day in January when you could play tennis outdoors in fifty degree weather.  It seems this year we have a lot of them, and some days you would play in shorts!  A possible reflection of this trend can be seen in the new USDA Plant Hardiness Map.

The map is used by gardeners to select plants that are best suited to the local climate, as described by temperature range.  This is the first revision since 1990.  Although it is not a guide to climate change as such it does show some area of significant changes over the last 20 years.

As described in USA Today, the changes are not dramatic with none over a half a zone.  Most of the changes show a warming to the north.  In the words of gardening consultant Charlie Nardozzi:
"If you want to look at what might be the most politically correct thing, you can say something's happening.  But the climate is changing. Spring is coming sooner and lasting longer. Fall lasts longer, and overall the weather is so much more erratic now."
While these designations are accurate generalizations, local landscape can make a difference which the map cannot describe.  Our Bull Creek valley runs north-south with fairly steep sides.  The sun hits it late and goes down early behind the hills.  The evening temperatures are between 5-10 degrees cooler than the surrounding uplands.

Meanwhile, Matt Ridley has an interesting take in his Wall Street Journal article,
Are We Holding a New Ice Age at Bay?  He points out that even considering the Little Ice Age (1550-1850) our 10,000 years of developing civilization has occurred in an unusually warm spell.  Temperatures like ours have occurred in less than 10% of the time over the last one million years.  Indeed, one theory is that the unusual warmth allowed our predecessors to develop agriculture, the first step in civilization.

He discusses some of the hot and cold history of our planet and the theory of some that the current warming may be postponing the next ice age.  Before you run out and buy a heavier coat, note that experts are talking about the next 1500 years.  As with all climate theory, it is interesting but nothing to hang that heavy coat on.

1 comment:

  1. i never thought that i would ever see the day where i could COMFORTABLY drive to town wearing a t-shirt, with my window down, in in pennsylvania, that is nearly unheard of right? we have had more 45+ degree days here than we have had snow... some people up here are loving it, it kinda scares me!

    Jack Martini