These last few weeks I have been thinking about climate change. I am a gardener and small fruit grower as well as a bee keeper. My property is just outside Montpelier, located in a small narrow north-south running valley. Our winters have always come a little earlier and lasted a little longer than Montpelier’s, just 6 miles away. Still, we are able to harvest many vegetables and grow a decent amount of small fruits like berries and apples.
In recent years, though, we’ve started to notice changes that are affecting our success. Our fruit trees seem to bloom just as a cool spell sets in, making it more difficult for their pollinators to make it to the blossoms before they fall. This year, fruit set looked good until a warm dry spell set up in mid-June and the new fruit began to fall from the trees. Some of the cool season vegetables that I’ve always been able to grow well are not really doing well anymore. Some of the hot weather veggies that I have always wanted to grow can actually be successful if I get them started under row cover and cold frames in May and June.
All of this has made me more interested in looking at climate trends. Since it can be difficult for most of us to tell the difference between natural variation and long term trends, I started exploring the data available on line. I found two good websites with graphs and maps that helped me explore the amazing amount of data that is out there on climate. You might find them interesting too.
Show Your Stripes from the University of Reading in England is one that has recently been in the news. At this website, you can explore global temperature data as well as data at the state level in the US. There are several different graph formats to work with. I found the bars with scale to be most informative. The change in overall global temperature is eye-opening (see the image below), and differences at the local level are amazing (explore on your own). Our personal experiences of climate warming clearly depend very much on where we live.
The View Global Data Explorer from NOAA has many more options to explore global data. It’s a little more complicated to figure out, but worth the effort. With this tool, you can explore data at the weekly level around the globe but it is the yearly information that was most interesting to me. Again, our perception of climate and change will be strongly influenced by where we live. One drawback to this site is that the graphics load very slowly on my back roads internet, but it is worth the wait.
Two news stories highlight the contrasting extremes of climate change effects on lakes – California’s largest reservoirs at critically low levels and A Drowning World. Data from Lake Champlain are showing that our region is experiencing change as well (see the LCBP’s Climate Data Trends and the Champlain Monitoring Program’s recent temperature trends. Protecting and restoring natural lake shores, giving rainwater opportunity and time to sink into the ground, and maintaining our forests all help Vermont’s lakes and waterways adapt to changing climate. No matter where you live in Vermont, on a lake or not, you can take steps to make your property more water-friendly. Check out the resources on FOVLAP’s website and past posts from Wise About Water to get started. Every little step to help your lake takes us in the right direction!