In what climate zone is your backyard?
What was the climate in your backyard like 300 years ago? 10,000 years ago?
Is your climate changing today? How?
|Winter comes to the backyard, photo by Steven J. Saffier/NAS
Climate is another basic force or condition that makes your backyard a unique place on the Earth. Climate, in concert with water and geology, controlled all of the life that was able to survive and thrive in what is now your yard for many millions of years prior to the arrival of human beings. And then people learned to cope with climate extremes and to take advantage of climate cycles as they have made their homes and land comfortable, productive places to live.
Your climate is made up of the weather or atmospheric conditions at your ecological address over an extended period of time – multiple decades at least. Of key importance to defining your climate are air temperature and precipitation. Daily and seasonal averages over years give you information about yearly patterns. In addition, average wind velocity and prevailing directions play a significant role in your local climate. Extreme weather events must also be included when describing a climate. How often does your backyard experience drought, flooding, high wind, or even hurricanes or tornadoes?
Not surprisingly for a watery planet, the dates and frequency of temperatures below freezing have a major impact on the other life in your backyard. What is the length of your growing season? What is the depth of the frost in your soil during an average winter? During which periods of the year will insect-eating birds find little available food?
Like all of the other forces at work in your backyard, climate changes. For a variety of reasons, both natural and man-made, the climate at your address this year was certainly very different at points in the distant and not-so-distant past. And, similarly, it will be different in the near and distant future. Some of these trends will become evident when you study your climate using your own powers of data collection and observation as well as the resources listed below.
Understanding these forces constantly at work in your backyard will allow you to make appropriate landscaping decisions and to anticipate events. You will often be able to take advantage of opportunities to work with and anticipate the elements of climate and avoid the unpleasant surprises that can arise from ignorance about them.
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
Offers an abundance of climate related information
The Blue Planet Biome
Provides excellent information about world climate…. and more.
United States National Arboretum
USDA Plant Hardiness Map outlines average annual minimum temperatures
The Environmental Literacy Council
Climate zones and beyond.
The Community Learning Network
Articles and activities about weather and climate
The Climate Institute
Climate in the news
Environmental and Societal Impacts Group
National Center for Atmospheric Research