Will Climate Change Make Your Hometown Full of Palm Trees?
By Dan Nosowitz
Palm trees. They're associated with places that aren't supposed to somehow get more snow on the last week in March, in violent opposition to that whole "out like a lamb" thing.
But palm trees are popping up in more locations than ever before, and can serve as signposts since they can only grow in certain climates. If you've got a palm tree that survives year-round, that tells you something about the local climate. To learn more, researchers from Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory took a closer look at the gentle, picturesque palm tree.
Lead author Tammo Reichgelt, who has previously studied Antarctic ice melt, looked into the specific requirements of palms, and used records of more than 20,000 fossil palm records to see how palms have spread over time. Palm seedlings, in particular, are extremely sensitive to cold; palms in general cannot survive if the average temperature during the coldest month of the year is lower than 36 degrees Fahrenheit.
That need for consistently warm, or at least not consistently cold, weather is why palms are so associated with warm climates; they are hardy plants, widespread and capable of growing in both dry and wet areas in great concentration, but winter knocks them out. That said! Rising temperatures might allow palms to survive in places not ordinarily considered tropical.
Let's take, just for example, Norfolk, Virginia and Greenville, North Carolina. As recently as the 1980s, these cities were too cold to permit palms to survive without a hefty amount of human assistance. Now, though, they've breached that climate border; Reichgelt's research suggests palms could survive there now.
This is sort of a fun study for those of us stuck in a grim, grey Northeast still slogging through winter. But palms are canaries in the coal mine, with just as much cheeriness as a (live) canary. If palms can survive in, say, Washington, DC, which is pretty close to that point, it's a clear sign of just how different the climate is than in decades past.
Reposted with permission from our media associate Modern Farmer.
- Most Meat Will Be Plant-Based or Lab-Grown in 20 Years, Analysts ... ›
- Lab-Grown Meat Debate Overlooks Cows' Range of Use Worldwide ... ›
- Will Plant-Based Meat Become the New Fast Food? - EcoWatch ›
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
One city in New Zealand knows what its priorities are.
Dunedin, the second largest city on New Zealand's South Island, has closed a popular road to protect a mother sea lion and her pup, The Guardian reported.
piyaset / iStock / Getty Images Plus
- No Country Is Protecting Children's Health, Major Study Finds ... ›
- 'Every Child Born Today Will Be Profoundly Affected by Climate ... ›
By Jeff Masters, Ph.D.
Earth had its second-warmest year on record in 2020, just 0.02 degrees Celsius (0.04°F) behind the record set in 2016, and 0.98 degrees Celsius (1.76°F) above the 20th-century average, NOAA reported January 14.
Figure 1. Departure of temperature from average for 2020, the second-warmest year the globe has seen since record-keeping began in 1880, according to NOAA. Record-high annual temperatures over land and ocean surfaces were measured across parts of Europe, Asia, southern North America, South America, and across parts of the Atlantic, Indian, and Pacific oceans. No land or ocean areas were record cold for the year. NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information
Figure 2. Total ocean heat content (OHC) in the top 2000 meters from 1958-2020. Cheng et al., Upper Ocean Temperatures Hit Record High in 2020, Advances in Atmospheric Sciences
Figure 3. Departure of sea surface temperature from average in the benchmark Niño 3.4 region of the eastern tropical Pacific (5°N-5°S, 170°W-120°W). Sea surface temperature were approximately one degree Celsius below average over the past month, characteristic of moderate La Niña conditions. Tropical Tidbits
- NASA and NOAA: Last Decade Was the Hottest on Record - EcoWatch ›
- Earth Just Had Its Hottest September Ever Recorded, NOAA Says ... ›
In December of 1924, the heads of all the major lightbulb manufacturers across the world met in Geneva to concoct a sinister plan. Their talks outlined limits on how long all of their lightbulbs would last. The idea is that if their bulbs failed quickly customers would have to buy more of their product. In this video, we're going to unpack this idea of purposefully creating inferior products to drive sales, a symptom of late-stage capitalism that has since been coined planned obsolescence. And as we'll see, this obsolescence can have drastic consequences on our wallets, waste streams, and even our climate.
- Consumer Society No Longer Serves Our Needs - EcoWatch ›
- Electronic Waste: New EU Rules Target Throwaway Culture ... ›