A Climate analogue is another location that has a climate similar to your project.
Climate Analogues are useful to Permaculture designers in many ways.
1. Discover the vernacular architecture of a place that will translate to your location.
Vernacular architecture is climate sensitive, low environmental impact and made from renewable resources. You will get hints for low tech, passive heating and cooling features, you can apply to your project.
2. Find plants that will thrive in your climate.
Online plant information will usually state a USDA hardiness zone. If you aren't in the US this is useless to you. Unless you know your US climate analogue, that is.
I know my zone is 10, because I know my climate is similar to Southern Florida.
You can also use species lists from other places. If a website states that the plant grows well in South Africa, Brazil, Taiwan, or Southern Japan, I can probably
grow it at my place.
3. Communicate your climate quickly to people who have never visited your location.
I can tell an American that my climate is similar to Florida, but with less rain and they will probably have an understanding of what that means.
4. Understand the climate of a place quickly without having visited.
There is no substitute for first person observation and local knowledge. However, if you want to get an insight into the climate of a place you have never visited, you can look for the climate analogues.
I've never visited Las Vegas, but I have been to inland South Australia, so I can appreciate the environmental folly of a large city located in an area with that climate and rainfall.
5. Choosing Animals and designing animal housing.
When choosing an animal it can help to take it's native bioregion into account.
You can choose a species ideally suited to your climate, (chickens and goats are great choices for me), or design their housing with their original climate in mind.
I'm sure there are many more uses for climate analogues, if you think of any let me know.
How to find Climate Analogues.
Note:Google Earth will come in very handy for this, but any globe, or world map will suffice.
-Find your latitude.
Just find the wikipedia entry for your city and the coordinates will be in the right hand side-bar.
You can also search for your address in Google Earth. Hover the mouse over the location and you can see the latitude, longitude and elevation, in the bottom right corner. (You'll need to take note of the elevation as well.)
-Which side of the continent is your location? East coast or West coast?
-How far inland is the location?
-What is the altitude, or elevation?
Geoff Lawton has said that for each 100m rise in altitude, you move (climate-wise) 1 degree closer to the pole. I believe this pans out, generally its cooler in the uplands.
-What is the Köppen climate classification of your site?
I discussed an easy way to find out over here
-What other factors affect the climate? Large bodies of water? Mountain ranges?
To find Climate analogues, we look for places that are on the same latitude, both north and south of the equator, that also match all the other factors.
Here's an example:
Location: Brisbane, QLD Australia
-Latitude 27.5 degrees South
-Close to coast
-Altitude lower than 100m above sea level. Mostly lower than 50m above sea level.
-Other: Hills to west, (less than 400m), situated along a river and estuary.
Now we know all this, I pinpoint Brisbane on a globe, or in Google Earth. I spin the globe and run my finger, (or mouse) between 27 and 28 degrees south, heading west.
I'm looking for the next continent, which is Africa, my finger hits the East coast of Africa. I only need to look at the coast, because Brisbane is a coastal city.
There aren't any towns exactly where my finger hits the coast, but Maputo is to the north, and Durban is to the south.
I keep travelling along S27.5, I hit Brazil, and quite close to my finger is a city called Florianopolis. It is on an island off the coast and it reminds me of Stradbroke island, or Fraser Island, the shape is incredibly similar. The ocean currents off the coast of Queensland and Brazil, must be similar.
I now turn my attention to the northern hemisphere. I follow 27.5 degrees north this time, focusing on where it crosses the East coast.
On mainland China there's a city called Cagnan. It's a little bit further inland than Brisbane, but not so much that i think it will affect the climate.
Further west, I hit Florida, and I find a lot of cities around 27.5 degrees. I pick Port St Lucie, as it has a bit of a river. I think the fact that Florida is on a peninsular might affect the weather, I think it would be wetter. I check the Koppen classification and Port St Lucie is just inside the Cfa border.
At Texas, just north of where my finger lands, is Corpus Christi. It even has a river running through it, and some islands. It's got high mountains to the west, which would make it cooler than Brisbane, though.
I can stop my travels now, after America is the Pacific ocean and I'm back in China, where I started.
I think my best choices for Brisbane Climate Analogues are Corpus Christi, Port St Lucie and Florianopolis. They tick most of the boxes.
Now I know, my climate is close to, but not exactly like, Florida, East Coast Texas, East Coast South Africa and Mid-Coast Brazil.
I can now use this information, to help me make appropriate design choices.