One thing I've been really fascinated by lately is the dramatic effect climate has on permaculture design principles. I got hooked on Permaculture through Sepp Holzer, and I think a large reason it really stuck with me was because his climate just so happened to mirror mine — high elevation, dry summers, mountainous terrain. His solutions made sense at an intuitive level because I was familiar with a climate similar to his. Conversely, listening to Geoff Lawton is a bit like listening to someone from another planet to me. His solutions for deserts and tropical locations make almost no sense in my context. And while I love watching Richard Perkins' videos, I've come to realize his consistent summer rainfall makes his approaches foreign in the West.
All that is to say… climate obviously matters a lot. We can always go back to P.A. Yeomans scale of permanence:
3. Water Supply
5. Trees 6. Structures
7. Subdivision Fences
In other words, climate should be the most important consideration for your designs, because it's the most permanent aspect of your land (and thus most difficult to change). The question I have is what are the important, measurable descriptors of climate? We have growing zones, which are great for approximating cold-hardiness of plants. We have topographic maps that describe landshape. We have methods to calculate watersheds for water supply. But climate seems to be so much more than that. It's about total rainfall, it's about the regularity of rainfall, it's about that rainfall's relation to the growing season, it's about growing degree days, it's about maximum temperatures and minimum temperatures — during the growing season and not — it's about…
Well, what is climate to you? How would you objectively describe your climate to someone else who has no knowledge of where you live? How would you describe the most permanent factors of your design foundations?
What I'm really curious about getting to the truth of are two things:
1. A way to tell people what their climate is (like growing zones, but more).
2. A way to measure changes as our climate changes.
Good points, I get very annoyed trying to explain to people why even though I live in zone 7b I cannot grow rice, I can't even grow tomatos outside unless I am very lucky and have a "hot" summer I can only have one layer of anything due to weak sun and a lot of cloud cover. My climate is oceanic, that is how it is described. So that means I have mild winters and cool summers with constant rain pretty much equaly distrabuted throughout the year, slightly MORE in summer than in winter, but as it doesn't evaporate in winter it seems wetter then. I do not get much snow but the temperature sits below freezing for a couple of months each year, I do not have to irrigate (last two years I have watered once) My problem is getting rid of water as fast as possible, I have several springs on a 2acre property! W also get a lot of wind, not so much storms, but constant wind almost always from one direction, all the trees here grow at around a 45degree angle and I'm 10miles from the sea!
We average 16C in July/august and 0C in December Jan.
Climate is a very interesting phenom. Always changing. 2015-16 we had warm drought winter with lizards running around in Jan. Instead of hibernating. A vol. tomato grew all winter & i moved it into the garden in the spring. Last 20 yrs all have froze. Short term climate/weather (called "normal") is average of high/low temps. But from how long? Probably not very. Seldom is one year same as preceeding. We are zone 9b, basically, sub-tropic. I'm starting to understand how things grow here. Another climate etc. Would be learning/adjustment. Climate, to me, is always changing.
For me climate is a weighted average with data from at least 5 years, 10 years of daily data would be better.
When we started looking at out land, I started keeping a log (hourly charting) of; Temperature, humidity, sunrise and sunset times, rain (when how much in how long), wind (speed, direction, humid or drying).
This gives a way to build an idea of what to expect your plants and trees will have to deal with. At first it is short term but as your data builds you should be able to see a bigger and bigger picture of what is happening on your land weather wise.
Once you know what happens over a long period of time you can then determine the climate and start to predict what to expect in months to come.
Climate can be broken down or expanded (your acreage or all the way to your continent) Large scale climate has many extra variables if compared to a local climate sub set of data.
Things like an El Nino or La Nina can effect weather patterns over the entire hemisphere. The temperature of ocean currents and their rate of flow can effect things like the intensity of storms, the size of storms, wind shear and all the other aspects of a storm event.
Since the 1970's our ability to collect data and use it has been improving, but this is leading to a dependency on computer modeling for predicting weather events and there are occasions when all the algorithms used give out wrong predictions.
This is getting better as we go along because we make corrections to the algorithms and modeling software.
All this is getting us to the point where we should be able to predict, with accuracy, the strength, duration, expected direction, of most supercell storms and hurricanes, we aren't there yet, but we keep getting closer and closer.