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The Changing Western Climate: How It’s Likely to Affect You, Your Garden, and the Climate Zone Maps You Depend Upon

Articles: The Changing Western Climate: How It’s Likely to Affect You, Your Garden, and the Climate Zone Maps You Depend Upon

Despite seemingly warming climate patterns, some recent winters along parts of the West Coast have been extremely cold; here, an unusually heavy snowfall blankets the Miller Botanical Garden in Seattle in November 2007. Photograph by Richie Steffen

People who cultivate plants, it seems, have always had to take climate change more seriously than most. During the Medieval Warm Period (AD 800-1300), Vikings colonized Greenland, where they farmed and fished until the Little Ice Age (1300-1850) froze them out. The great drought of 1276-1299 probably drove the ancestral Pueblo people, who grew much of what they ate, out of their cliff dwellings in Colorado, Utah, Arizona, and New Mexico. And extended drought in Mexico and Central America coincided with the collapse of the Mayan culture.

In those earlier times, gardeners could only cope and hope. But these days, we have the advantage of historical perspective, 150 years of worldwide weather records, and computer modeling to shape our hopes and fears. Those resources tell us to look forward to an average temperature increase of 3° to 8°F by mid-century, with risi...

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