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There is an ongoing debate among some people on climate change.  We used to call it “global warming” and people would say to me “That’s great!  I can’t wait for it to be like Florida here!” . Over time climate scientists began to use the phrase “climate change” because although the earth as a whole is becoming warmer, what is happening at a local level is the change in weather patterns, rainfall and snowfall patterns and temperature cycles.  We still have summer and winter – but we would not normally expect to have 70 degrees on one day and snow the next in February.[lightbox link=”” thumb=”×150.jpg” width=”150″ align=”right” title=”” frame=”true” icon=”image” caption=””]

Weather is different from climate.  According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration: “Climate is what you expect, weather is what you get.”. Weather is what you see outside on any particular day while climate is an average of the weather that happens day to day.  Climate is usually calculated from information collected over 30 years or more.

In January 2012 the USDA updated the Plant Hardiness zone map. The map was an update of the 1990 Hardiness map and shows a shift in zone boundaries.  This shift was a result of “using temperature data from a longer and more recent time period; the new map uses data measured at weather stations during the 30-year period 1976-2005. In contrast, the 1990 map was based on temperature data from only a 13-year period of 1974-1986.”  In most cases the new map was a half-zone, or 5 degrees, warmer than the previous map.

I have noticed changes in the bloom times of plants here at the sanctuary over the last 30 years.  Plants are blooming earlier. I keep track of bloom times so I can see that this is happening. The growing season is lasting longer; winters have less snow and more rain; fall has become our dry season.     I am talking about a “trend” of course.  Each year is unique, each season offers its own weather.  Yes, I do remember very snowy winters in 2010 and 2011.

My observations are mostly casual (although I spend a lot of time outside).  On Saturday, March 3rd at 1:30pm Alexander Bryan will be joining us next to talk about climate change.  He is a climatologist from the U.S. Geological Survey and will display the complete, unfiltered data records from New England’s 2000+ weather station database.  He will help us understand the fundamental physics behind the observed trends and highlight what we can and cannot glean from computer model predictions of future climate.


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