Objective Ecoregions of Predicted Climates
Researchers: Bill Hargrove and Forrest Hoffman
Will tomatoes grow in Tennessee in 2099?
ORNL researchers have developed a new technique for generation of ecoregion maps, allowing predicted climates can be compared to each other and to current or past climates.
By the year 2099, the environment in Pittsburgh may become like the environment today in Atlanta, according to a new supercomputer analysis by two scientists at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Minneapolis may come to resemble the current St. Louis environment, and Cleveland may become like Kansas City is today.
Using predicted climate changes from two existing internationally-recognized climate models (the British Hadley model and the Canadian Climate Centre model) along with additional environmental information, William Hargrove and Forrest Hoffman developed a technique which groups areas on a map that have similar environmental growing conditions, both now and in the future. The analysis results in something similar to the Plant Hardiness Zones map which helps gardeners select landscape plants which will thrive in their area.
The new supercomputer technique, given a future climate prediction, allows ecologists to see how and where particular growing zones present today will shift and slide across the map in the future. The Hargrove and Hoffman analysis takes into account 25 characteristics of the growing environment, including maximum, minimum, and mean annual temperature, monthly rainfall, soil fertility factors, elevation, and sunshine. They compared the present USA with two alternative future predictions for the year 2099. Each of the three versions of the USA has over 7.8 million individual pixels for each of the 25 characteristics. The maps which result make it easy to see which geographic areas can be expected to change, and what current areas they will come to resemble when any climate change scenario is used as input. One of the models suggests that the environment in Dallas will become more like the environment in currently found in the Houston/Galveston area.