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Ramifications of Record Cold Snap/Polar Vortex

 
Jessica Gorton
Posts: 274
Location: Central Maine - Zone 4b/5a
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So, we've had record cold temperatures across much of the country the last few days (not here in regularly frigid Maine, just our normal holy crap it's cold!), and I'm curious as to what you folks, especially in the South where temperatures are usually not anywhere near this cold, did to protect your plants, if anything. I'm also curious about outcomes, both of those plants that were protected and those that were not (might take a bit to get this info, but I'll still be interested come Spring!).

How does an event like this change or shape your thinking about how and what to plant? Maybe we won't see temps like this again for 20 years, or ever. But what if it becomes a more regular event? We look to our specific climate zones when determining what to plant, and those zones have pushed north in the last 20 or more years, making it seem possible to plant more tender perennials in a particular area - but temperatures like the ones we saw this week throw a monkey wrench in that kind of thinking, no?

It's funny, I was looking over my project thread the other day, and I had written that I haven't seen -20 degrees F in ten years in my area. Looks like I jinxed myself with that one!
 
George Meljon
Posts: 278
Location: Southern Indiana zone 5b
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We have very few perennials at this point, so it's not even occurred to me, but this is a good topic.
 
Johnny Niamert
Posts: 268
Location: Colo
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I'm interested in the ramifications of this as well. Last night on the talking head's, they were clambering about citrus prices. From what they said, citrus was unaffected because the temps were not actually cold enough to freeze the fruits. One thing they do is run irrigation over-night to create a micro-climate a tad warmer than it would be without.

My uncle did this technique for his tomato garden last spring when there were later than usual frosts in spring. Most growers in his area had to replant. He ran his irrigation on the nights where it got really cold and his tomatoes survived.
I guess this technique is dependent on having water-rights, though.
 
Craig Dobbelyu
gardener
Posts: 1412
Location: Maine (zone 5)
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It was -35 here with the wind so I was kinda laughing when I saw all the people south of here freaking out. Like last year's "SNOWPOCALYPSE". Yeah yeah yeah... 3 feet of snow.... big woop! But if you're not ready for it, it can really ruin your day, so I feel bad too. A lot of plumbers in the south are making some good money right now fixing busted water pipes.

The real pest here was the ice that we got before the cold snap. I have 45 trees and perennials that I just planted in the spring of 2013. They were covered with an inch of ice. Nothing broke but damn they were hanging low. I'm thinking that will mean slow growth in the spring of 2014 as they deal with that trauma. We'll see. At least the swales were able to handle the water from the subsequent thaw so we avoided a wet and muddy mess. And now that they are frozen again, I can use them as a slide. Yay!

I'd also like to know from people where the ground doesn't usually freeze, how your buildings are holding up again frost heaves. I've seen quite a few sheds and chicken coops in rather twisted shapes as the ground vaulted one side up about a foot or so.

I bet there are a lot of people who are trying to deal with frostbitten chickens and such too. I actually brought my Polish rooster inside for the two coldest days. They aren't THAT cold hardy and he's more of a pet than a farm critter so he gets a little extra love.


 
Alder Burns
pollinator
Posts: 1341
Location: northern California
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Extreme weather events of every sort bring up valuable observation opportunities not to be had in "ordinary" times. In particular, the survival of plants....which plants, which varieties, and in which niches and microclimates. Even in spite of climate change, the range of winter hardiness of numerous common plants has been extended by a zone or more colder by simple selection based on survival of individuals to extreme events which wipe out all other plants of the same kind in the area. These survivors are then propagated.
Niche analysis may well prove fruitful as well. I continue to be surprised, as many times as I see it, by the importance of morning shade on a hard-freezing morning. Not having the bright sun come right up on a frozen stiff plant, but rather having it in a situation where it can thaw gradually, seems to be so helpful to a wide range of marginally hardy things, and even the tolerance of tender annuals and vegetables to light frosts.
 
Robert Ray
gardener
Posts: 1350
Location: Cascades of Oregon
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In my area we are missing all of that cold weather. Greens in the green house have gone crazy. Haven't had to fire up the snowblower or plow the driveway once. I'm wondering what is going to happen this summer with no snow melt. This has been an unusually warm winter no snow and really no rain to speak of. Nearly fifty degrees yesterday and mid forties today.
 
Giselle Burningham
Posts: 92
Location: Australia, Now zone 10a, costal, sandy, windy and temperate.
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In Australia we have just had the hottest year ever breaking 225 records. The net effect is that I am now choosing more heat and drought tollerant plants as the rains have changed their patterns to being downpours instead of balanced. These cause terrible damage and the plants struggle with the heat out of season. Giselle
 
Alex Ames
Posts: 404
Location: Georgia
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I am in Georgia and made a loop through the garden today. Mustard greens, broccoli, lettuce, parsley
Chicory and even Swiss Chard were hit hard. Collards, kale and cilantro did better. It is supposed
warm up tomorrow. I have some concerns about my Rosemary. I started some lettuce late under a cover
with the idea that it might just sit there tiny until it warms up in the spring and then take off. That
survived. My area is somewhat protected. I imagine anything out in an open field around here is a goner.
 
Chris Kott
Posts: 796
Location: Toronto, Ontario
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I think this sort of thing, while perhaps a little more severe in places than usual, isn't exactly unprecedented. I remember driving through Arkansas after an icestorm, and I think that same one, if I'm not mistaken, hit Quebec on its way out. We had snow and ice for our visit in Austin, Texas that trip, and a small rise I wouldn't have even noticed on a bicycle, without salt to melt the ice, was enough to send everyone sliding backwards.

-CK
 
Alex Ames
Posts: 404
Location: Georgia
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Locally at least we had a dry event with just 20 degree colder weather than normal. What we had is pretty
tame compared to normal up in Missoula. I am ready to send it back up North!
 
Craig Dobbelyu
gardener
Posts: 1412
Location: Maine (zone 5)
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The ice was pretty. Our power was out for four days and all you could hear at night was cracking and breaking tree limbs. Then at 3 am the road crews came down the road with chainsaws clearing all the fallen limbs from the road. That was a little strange to wake up to. All in all it sounded like a horror sound track.
IMG_4397.JPG
[Thumbnail for IMG_4397.JPG]
Frozen Everything
 
Kdan Horton
Posts: 34
Location: North West Georgia
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I can grow more plants if needed. I'm really hoping the cold did a number on the bugs! The bugs were ridiculous last year. All the rain flooded the grass field for days and now it's all froze. I want the chiggers to suffer bad.
 
Chris Kott
Posts: 796
Location: Toronto, Ontario
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Chiggers, ticks, fleas, and the emerald ash borer have hopefully all died horrible cold deaths.

-CK
 
Jessica Gorton
Posts: 274
Location: Central Maine - Zone 4b/5a
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Oh, I really hope the cold has set back the bugs! I'm afraid we might have had too much snow cover when we got our deep freezes this year, but hope springs eternal...
 
Chris Kott
Posts: 796
Location: Toronto, Ontario
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As I understand it, the reason for the cold snap isn't the vortex, but rather the fact that the jet stream that keeps us all warm relies on a temperature differential between the equator and the pole that has been lessened due to the melting of the polar cap. This has reduced the albedo (reflectivity) at the pole, meaning that the open water and darker ground absorb, rather than reflect, the solar radiation.

If storm systems, like hurricanes from the equator and cyclonic cold fronts from the poles, are simply giant heat exchange mechanisms, and the processes that keep those mechanisms in check are disrupted, I think we can expect more extreme weather in the future.

-CK
 
Ray Star
Posts: 48
Location: twin tiers of WNY zone 5A
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Chiggers, ticks, fleas, and the emerald ash borer have hopefully all died horrible cold deaths.




I'd be rooting for an annual polar vortex, if it meant the end of lime disease and the salvation of the ash tree >. Besides the cold really gave me a new
perspective on what I concider do-able. As in tuesday it was an "OMG" -12, when I left for work . Wensday was a "damn it's cold" +1. Yesterday, when I left work
it was a " definitly could handle this, for the rest of the season" +23 . I so never would have said that, before!
 
Craig Dobbelyu
gardener
Posts: 1412
Location: Maine (zone 5)
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for what it's worth:


 
Bill Ramsey
Posts: 86
Location: SW Georgia, zone 8b
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Well, I finally got the chance to do a little something in the garden since that last deep freeze and there seems to be less real damage than I expected. I did notice a few pests moved into the mustard to munch on the damaged & stressed plants. I cleaned up the worst of it to prevent mold and more pests, tossed some to the chickens so they could compost them for me. The topic of morning shade helping to prevent damage made me stop and consider my set up. One mustard bed previously showed less or no damage after a freeze at the east end and I figured the trees, weeds and bushes near that area had blocked wind or kept frost or freezing from being as bad.. but the morning shade idea really seems more likely considering where everything is growing. I'll try to keep that in mind in the future.
 
C. Letellier
Posts: 222
Location: Greybull WY north central WY zone 4 bordering on 3
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I am northern WY and at the moment it is RAINING out.
 
Chris Kott
Posts: 796
Location: Toronto, Ontario
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To put it plainly, though the video just above says it quite well, observations of local conditions mean little or nothing. We are looking at three or four days of above freezing temperatures, with a maximum of 8*C where we are. We have seen similar warmings every other year or two.

The sky is not falling, Chicken Little. Climate change is an ongoing process. Humanity has weathered climate adversity before, and will do so again. Apart from trying to clean up our collective act, all we can do is adapt. Or die, but I prefer my solution.
 
2017 Permaculture Design Course at Wheaton Labs
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