|Fox Glacier, New Zealand, 2009|
Warming is and will be greater in some places than others. Precipitation is critical to how we experience warming and warming affects rainfall. The connections are the topic of a whole section in university Introductory Ecology courses because weather adds up to climate and climate critically limits where organisms can live. Temperature and water are the primary factors, then their impact is modified by geography, soils, and ultimately, a feedback loop from vegetation.
We read stories of flooding and heat waves elsewhere and are glad it isn't us. But in fact, it is us. It is one big world with lots of interlocking processes.
|Amazon rainforest in Peru, a big part of water cycling on earth.|
Weather stations have tracked temperatures and precipitation for more than an century across the U.S. (and much longer in long-settled areas). That means they can compare changes and find, for example, that Fort Collins, Colorado is the 9th fastest warming city in the U.S. Well, we know a lot about heat in cities and can mitigate the gain in heat by reducing pavement and creating shade, especially from plants. Much landscape design is casual or even accidental, so there is lots that can be done to make it better.
Increased heat means that the drought that frequently stresses the Front Range--my backyard rain gauge had no measureable rain for most of September 2019--will be worse. Native plants have been selected to endure hot dry periods; my cute ornamentals and any seedlings were very stressed. Even if the same rainfall occurs, water doesn't go as far at higher temperatures. (At higher temperatures more evaporates and plants and animals release water to cool themselves.) With more heat our droughts will be worse.
|unwatered grassland and stressed small cottonwood tree, |
October 5, 2018, Boulder County, Colorado
|Water-efficient plants, Gardens at Spring Creek, Fort Collins, CO|
Because the climate change from global warming is playing out everywhere, you do not have to despair because it is such a big problem but rather, find out what has changed where you live and help your town and neighbors adapt. When we understand the problem, we can see lots of things to do: coastal people faced with flooding can build sea walls or put their houses on stilts or create marshes as buffer zones. City people faced with heat emergencies can plant trees, reduce reflective surfaces, reduce heat loss to the outdoors by insulating, and of course there are even more innovative responses such as roof gardens (About urban heat link; suggestions link). And so on.
|Roof garden over the first floor at Omni Hotel, Fort Worth, Texas|
|Wild phlox growing in a field in New Mexico.|
I'd be happy to have this drought- and heat-tolerant plant in my yard.
Comments and corrections welcome.
Kathy Keeler, A Wandering Botanist
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