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What zone would I be if this were a normal year?  RSS feed

 
Kota Dubois
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Anyone in eastern N. America knows that this has been a very unusual winter. This past weekend, I visited my nominally zone 4a land for the first time this year. Normally the snow makes this impossible until the 3rd week of April.

This is what I encountered. No snow. Crocuses just fading. Daffodils up and the first blooms opening. Almost all the perennials braking the surface. The garlic looks like it was growing all winter. The currents and the willows have broken their buds.

Just in case this is what the future has in store for me, I'd like to know what zone I might be. If in normal times these are the what you see in the third week of March, what zone are you supposed to be in?

Thank you.
 
Isaac Hill
gardener
Posts: 356
Location: Beaver County, Pennsylvania (~ zone 6)
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Probably 6. I'm supposed to be in 6, but I don't think we got below 20 once this winter and we barely got below 30 at all. Daffodils came up the first week of March, peaches & crabapples have already flowered, it's been in the 80s... and it's supposed to drop to 28 tonight. WTF!?!?!
 
Brenda Groth
pollinator
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Location: North Central Michigan
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i'm in zone 4 b and have very similar conditions to what you have..although our overnight low was 15 degrees this morning..so all the fruit buds are in danger of freezing..for sure..

consider your zone when buying plants, not the conditions you find in an unusual year..this isn't global warming, it is just an el nino year.
 
Yone' Ward
Posts: 135
Location: Springdale, WA USA - Cold Mediterranean Climate
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Don't get too exited about one year's temps and look at the zone map with skepticism. If I understand the Idea of permaculture correctly, you need to keep an eye on what's happened in the last 20 years. The zone map says I am either 5b or 6a, but this years we only got down to zero which would put us in 7a, but once ever 10 years or so we hit -30 which would put us in zone 4a. Too much optimism and too much listening to the hip propaganda of the day can leave you cold and hungry.
 
Cj Sloane
pollinator
Posts: 3725
Location: Vermont, off grid for 24 years!
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If you're in Vermont, the weather is dropping like a stone.
Your zone might be bumped up a level or half of one, but that's it.

An old Vermont expression - "If you don't like the weather, wait a minute."
 
Kelly Rued
Posts: 40
Location: St. Paul, MN, USA
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Normal depending on what time frame you are looking at?

I have read (but don't know for sure) that the past 100 years has been the truly abnormal weird weather because it was so consistent! In the past it may have been much more erratic.

Very interesting to hear some permies look at the past 20 years... I am nearly 33 so that would be from about age 10 to now. I wonder how reliable that could even be for predicting the future (all statistical significance/math arguments welcome).

I know Paul poo-poos greenhouses in general but crazy weather is one of the best arguments for developing better, smarter greenhouse designs. Climate controlled interior gardens could make a big difference in human survivability if erratic weather becomes more common than "normal" weather.
 
Tyler Ludens
pollinator
Posts: 9697
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
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Kelly Rued wrote:
Very interesting to hear some permies look at the past 20 years... I am nearly 33 so that would be from about age 10 to now. I wonder how reliable that could even be for predicting the future (all statistical significance/math arguments welcome).


I've lived big chunks of my life in a region with erratic weather (Edwards Plateau of Texas). It doesn't seem that different to me down here. Folks up north seem to be complaining a lot about differences they've noticed recently. There's a "new" zone map out (well, newly released by the guvmint) It's pretty detailed but of course doesn't reflect microclimates in our yards, so is still just a general guide: http://planthardiness.ars.usda.gov/PHZMWeb/
 
Kota Dubois
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Thank you Issac for answering my question in the manner with which it was proposed.

After living through the Bastaille Day flood of '97 in which 8 inches of rain fell in less than 6 hours, and the series of 5 icestorms in a week in '98 where people were forced to live months without electricity, and hurricane Irene which last fall flattened acres of my beloved forest; I know the difference between weather and climate. I feel this thread has gotten terribly off topic and there is maybe just a little bit of political "need to tell you" involved here.

Let's just let this thread die.

Thank you everyone.
 
Kelly Rued
Posts: 40
Location: St. Paul, MN, USA
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I thought the USDA zones were based on annual average minimum temperature. I guess I don't follow whether a "normal" year would then be one with a low winter temp around that annual average or whether normal is just somewhere in a given range for each zone (like would this past winter be within the realm of normal here even though it was obviously much colder than recent years)?

I'm glad Kota was happy with the answer about zone 6 but I am still not clear on what the USDA zones tell us about the normal winter temps in a given place. If wondering about this is "terribly off topic", that's fine but I kind of dislike someone calling for a thread to die if other people had questions in it still unanswered, etc. I really am new to the USDA zone thing and not sure what it means (if anything) when your winter seems to be on the extreme warm or cold end of your supposed zone.

Here is a kinda cool animation showing changes in the USDA zone map (basic trend is warm zones moving north since 1990):

http://www.arborday.org/media/mapchanges.cfm
 
Tyler Ludens
pollinator
Posts: 9697
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
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Kelly Rued wrote:I thought the USDA zones were based on annual average minimum temperature.


I think they are, but it is also possible for the minimum to be below the average minimum temperature if it is an unusual year. These outlier years are hard to plan for - here in TX there was a spectacularly unusually cold year in 1899 when parts of Galveston Bay froze over! The minimum might also be above the average minimum, as in an unusually warm year. Recent years have been warmer for much of North America so the zones in many places have moved north.

 
Yone' Ward
Posts: 135
Location: Springdale, WA USA - Cold Mediterranean Climate
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Kelly Rued wrote:Normal depending on what time frame you are looking at?

I have read (but don't know for sure) that the past 100 years has been the truly abnormal weird weather because it was so consistent! In the past it may have been much more erratic.

Very interesting to hear some permies look at the past 20 years... I am nearly 33 so that would be from about age 10 to now. I wonder how reliable that could even be for predicting the future (all statistical significance/math arguments welcome).

I know Paul poo-poos greenhouses in general but crazy weather is one of the best arguments for developing better, smarter greenhouse designs. Climate controlled interior gardens could make a big difference in human survivability if erratic weather becomes more common than "normal" weather.

I used 20 years because most of your significant normal extremes here repeat themselves in that time frame and planning for more than the next 20 years is a sketchy proposition as our world is highly volatile. If you are planning trees, twenty years can be a sort of minimum you have to plan on. If it's perennials and self planting crops you are working with, then you can loose a major chunk of your crops to an off year that you weren't expecting.

If you go back a full century you can start seeing all sorts of patterns and can give you a heads up to issues that will catch your neighbor flat footed. Hurricane Katrina, for example, was the third top ten hurricane to hit New Orleans head on in the last century.
 
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