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Tuesday, March 13, 2012

What plants are telling us about climate change

 The politicization of climate change has clouded the public discourse on climate change.  If you are a pro-oil drill believer you remain skeptical about scientific reports of glacial melt and just write it off as just the normal earth changes and caused by man's activity.  Of course changes in climate from year to year are not a basis for validating climate change.  Our snowy winter of 2 years ago has no more relevance to long term climate change than this year's very mild winter. That is where plant migration might indicate more long term changes that can be seen over a few decades.  Plant migration would remain fairly static if you at the normal climate changes.  For plants to continue to migrate into new regions takes a more long term change in the climate.  Since the map released in 1990 the zones have shifted north by one half zone. This report from the  Scientific America lays out the findings

“Chihuahuan desert plants like autumn sage, hummingbird mints, and desert willow trees thrive in the gardens that David Salman, president of Santa Fe Greenhouses, oversees. This wouldn't be the Chihuahuan desert. But Salman's display gardens are hundreds of miles north of the desert in Santa Fe. Thirty years ago, these plants wouldn't have survived that city's high elevation and chilly winters. And that's not the only change in New Mexico. Santa Fe has seen better fruit and vegetable gardens over the last 10 growing seasons, and fruits like cantaloupes, which barely stood a chance before, now grow. ‘Thirty years ago, trying to grow a cantaloupe was a complete waste of time,’ said Salman, who is president of Santa Fe Greenhouses. ‘We're not finding that to be the case now.’

Two thousand miles east, in the New York Botanical Garden, horticulturists have also been experimenting. Their Ladies' Border plot, a south-facing, well-protected garden filled with decorative plants, was replanted ten years ago with plants that weren't normally associated with New York, like crape myrtles and camellias. Those plants are thriving now. Travel south to Virginia and you'll find that vintners have been growing merlot grapes, a warmer weather grape that's now the second most popular variety in the state, rather than the chardonnay grapes, more tolerant to colder weather, which they were accustomed to 15 years ago. And the wine-growing regions have expanded all over the state as the season has gotten longer, said Tony Wolf, professor of viticulture at Virginia Tech. ‘The warmer winters have opened doors for vintners to try varieties that were once risky,’ Wolf said.”

 Are plants the canary in the mine? The Climate Change Initiative of Howard County is hosting a session on the impacts of climate change as seen from space: 
Observations from Space: Earth & Climate Change
Mar 24, 9am to Noon
Howard Community College in Columbia, MD
Rouse Company Foundation Student Hall (RCF 400)

NASA scientists will present the latest images from satellites and discuss the profound changes in the Earth’s climate at this forum. Topics will include changes in sea level, sea and land ice fields, biomass and the carbon cycle, and atmospheric composition. During a panel discussion following the lectures, the scientists, representatives from nongovernmental organizations and policymakers will discuss the implications of climate change, review the status of national policy and take questions from the audience.
This event is FREE - refreshments will be served. Exhibits will be open before and after the event and include representatives from NASA Earth science public outreach and local organizations.
The forum is sponsored by the Climate Change Initiative of Howard County, Howard Community College, Howard County government, and NASA.
For additional information and registration, visit:

      The USDA is conducting a nutrition survey to learn about the eating habits of children and adults. Given that only 5% of Americans follow the recommended dietary guidelines, we are interested in learning about the factors that prevent and promote compliance with the guidelines. Participants will be asked about their eating habits, physical activity levels, and lifestyle.

What: Help Americans eat towards a healthier lifestyle by 1) completing a survey about your eating habits and lifestyle, and 2) getting your height and weight measured. All surveys are completely anonymous and will be kept confidential. Entire process will take less than 2 hours. The survey will be administered to both student and parent/caregiver.

Who: 5th grade students in public schools AND their parent/caregiver
When/Where: Wednesday, March 21, 2012 at 4:30PM at Howard County Public Library Central Branch, 10375 Little Patuxent Parkway, Columbia, MD -OR- Thursday, March 22, 2012 at 4:30PM at Beltsville Human Nutrition Research Center, 307B Center Road, Beltsville, MD 20705
When: Wednesday, March 21, 2012, at 4:30PM                 
Compensation: $25 gift card to Target/participant ($50/household)
How: Contact Grace via phone at 301.504.6052 or via email at to confirm your participation or to obtain additional information.

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