Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Warmer Temperatures Make New USDA Plant Zone Map Obsolete

14.09.2012
CCNY Researcher Devises New Approach to Mapping Plant Hardiness Zones That Accounts for Effects of Climate Change

Gardeners and landscapers may want to rethink their fall tree plantings. Warming temperatures have already made the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s new cold-weather planting guidelines obsolete, according to Dr. Nir Krakauer, assistant professor of civil engineering in The City College of New York’s Grove School of Engineering.


A map of warming across the nation showing how much USDA plant hardiness zones will warm, in degrees Farhenheit. (Credit: Nir Krakauer)

Professor Krakauer developed a new method to map cold-weather zones in the United States that takes rapidly rising temperatures into account. Analyzing recent weather data, he overhauled the Department of Agriculture’s latest plant zone map released in January.

The new USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map, which predicts which trees and perennials can survive the winter in a given region, was a long time coming. Temperature boundaries shown in the latest version have shifted northward since the last one appeared in 1990. But the true zones have moved even further, according to Professor Krakauer’s calculations.

“Over one-third of the country has already shifted half-zones compared to the current release, and over one-fifth has shifted full zones,” Professor Krakauer wrote this summer in the journal “Advances in Meteorology.”

This means that fig trees, once challenged by frosty temperatures above North Carolina, are already weathering New York City winters thanks to changing temperatures and the insulating effect of the metropolis. Camellias, once happiest south of Ohio, may now be able to shrug off Detroit winters.

The USDA divides the country into zones based on their annual minimum temperatures – frigid dips that determine which plants perish overnight or live to flower another day. (Each zone has a minimum temperature range of 10 degrees Fahrenheit; half zones have a 5-degree range.)

Professor Krakauer found a weakness in how the agency came up with the zones, however. The USDA averaged annual minimum temperatures over a 30-year span, from 1976 to 2005, but winters have warmed significantly over that period. Zones now average about 2 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than the USDA’s 30-year average.

“What is happening is that the winter is warming faster than the summer. Since [my] hardiness temperatures are based on minimum temperatures each year, they are changing faster than the average temperatures,” Professor Krakauer said. He found that these lowest yearly temperatures warmed roughly two and a half times faster than the average temperatures.

His analysis also showed that the country is changing unevenly; more warming is occurring over the eastern interior and less in the Southwest.

Professor Krakauer’s technique will allow gardeners and farmers to reassess more frequently what will survive the next year’s winter. “The idea is that you could use this method to keep updating the zone map year by year instead of waiting for the official map – just keep adding new data and recalculate.”

He noted that similar analyses could distinguish long-lasting climate trends – in wind or rainfall, for example – from year-to-year weather variations to distinguish between what some are calling the recent “weird weather" and the natural variations in global weather.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) supported this study.

Professor Krakauer studies the Earth's water and carbon cycles at the Grove School of Engineering at The City College of New York, particularly the effects of global warming and other human impacts.

On the Web:
USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map
USDA Plant Hardiness Interactive Map
Calculator for Regional Warming (by Nir Krakauer)
Hardiness Zone Change Calculator, USDA vs. Krakauer
Nir Krakauer Profile

Reference:
Nir Y. Krakauer. Estimating Climate Trends: Application to United States Plant Hardiness Zones. Advances in Meteorology, Vol. 2012 (2012), Article ID 404876, doi:10.1155/2012/404876
Media Contact
Jessa Netting P | 212-650-7615 E | jnetting@ccny.cuny.edu

Jessa Netting | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.ccny.cuny.edu
http://www1.ccny.cuny.edu/advancement/news/Warmer-Temperatures-Make-New-USDA-Plant-Zone-Map-Obsolete.cfm

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht Climate satellite: Tracking methane with robust laser technology
22.06.2017 | Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft

nachricht How reliable are shells as climate archives?
21.06.2017 | Leibniz-Zentrum für Marine Tropenforschung (ZMT)

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Can we see monkeys from space? Emerging technologies to map biodiversity

An international team of scientists has proposed a new multi-disciplinary approach in which an array of new technologies will allow us to map biodiversity and the risks that wildlife is facing at the scale of whole landscapes. The findings are published in Nature Ecology and Evolution. This international research is led by the Kunming Institute of Zoology from China, University of East Anglia, University of Leicester and the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research.

Using a combination of satellite and ground data, the team proposes that it is now possible to map biodiversity with an accuracy that has not been previously...

Im Focus: Climate satellite: Tracking methane with robust laser technology

Heatwaves in the Arctic, longer periods of vegetation in Europe, severe floods in West Africa – starting in 2021, scientists want to explore the emissions of the greenhouse gas methane with the German-French satellite MERLIN. This is made possible by a new robust laser system of the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT in Aachen, which achieves unprecedented measurement accuracy.

Methane is primarily the result of the decomposition of organic matter. The gas has a 25 times greater warming potential than carbon dioxide, but is not as...

Im Focus: How protons move through a fuel cell

Hydrogen is regarded as the energy source of the future: It is produced with solar power and can be used to generate heat and electricity in fuel cells. Empa researchers have now succeeded in decoding the movement of hydrogen ions in crystals – a key step towards more efficient energy conversion in the hydrogen industry of tomorrow.

As charge carriers, electrons and ions play the leading role in electrochemical energy storage devices and converters such as batteries and fuel cells. Proton...

Im Focus: A unique data centre for cosmological simulations

Scientists from the Excellence Cluster Universe at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich have establised "Cosmowebportal", a unique data centre for cosmological simulations located at the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (LRZ) of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences. The complete results of a series of large hydrodynamical cosmological simulations are available, with data volumes typically exceeding several hundred terabytes. Scientists worldwide can interactively explore these complex simulations via a web interface and directly access the results.

With current telescopes, scientists can observe our Universe’s galaxies and galaxy clusters and their distribution along an invisible cosmic web. From the...

Im Focus: Scientists develop molecular thermometer for contactless measurement using infrared light

Temperature measurements possible even on the smallest scale / Molecular ruby for use in material sciences, biology, and medicine

Chemists at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) in cooperation with researchers of the German Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (BAM)...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Plants are networkers

19.06.2017 | Event News

Digital Survival Training for Executives

13.06.2017 | Event News

Global Learning Council Summit 2017

13.06.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Quantum thermometer or optical refrigerator?

23.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

A 100-year-old physics problem has been solved at EPFL

23.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Equipping form with function

23.06.2017 | Information Technology

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>