I've noticed a lot of people referring to specific climate zones they live in. Is there a specific system or map everyone is using? Googling "climate zone map USA" gives a million different maps. I'm more concerned with climate zones for natural building purposes, but a zone map for farming/growing purposes would be great to have as well. Thank you!
The USDA has a growing climate zone map, which millions are probably familiar with from seed catalogs. This goes from 1 (extremely cold) to 13 (tropical).
I have more recently become aware of a heating zone system, where the numbers work in the opposite direction from 1 (warm) to 8(cold). Zone 5 or 6 is about the same in each system.
There is also this descriptive zone system.
I generally use the USDA climate zone but try to plan for the extremes of one zone both above and below when I plant trees. I take more risk with shorter lived plants, often planting things that are one zone warmer.
I don't know what it's called, but I also pay great attention to the climate descriptions that tell me things about the water needs of plants. Mostly if something is from a Mediterranean climate and can handle my temperature extremes, I can get it to grow.
In North America, the USDA zone hardiness map and system is pretty universal for gardeners and farmers. There's a European system analogous to the USDA system, but for Europe. I've just recently been made aware of the Koppen climate classification system, which tries to describe climates in more involved ways than temperature. Not really familiar with it yet, but I can see where it has uses.
For example, our new place is in Fennville MI, 42 deg. 30 min. north latitude in Koppen Cfb. Turns out there's a lovely village in Japan at the same latitude with the same Koppen classification and their major crops are rice and koi. Which tells me there's good reason to think that our Michigan climate will llow growing both rice and koi, and our particular piece of land looks to have some areas that tend to be wet and might make rice paddies and/or koi friends.
While I will definitely be bookmarking all of these maps for later referencing, the Koppen climate classification system is EXACTLY what I was looking for! It has so much detail too! The wife and I are thinking about moving out of our region in the next few years, and I really wanted to see what other parts of the US are like. this is perfect, thank you everyone!