Projects will help Kansans adapt to Plant Hardiness Zone Map changes
The recent revision of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Plant Hardiness Zone Map provides tangible evidence that winter temperatures have been warming in Kansas and the rest of the conterminous United States since 1990, said Chuck Rice, K-State university distinguished professor of agronomy.
The new map shows that most areas of Kansas can now expect the extreme low temperatures in the winter to be about 5 degrees warmer than they were 20 years ago, on the average, Rice said.
This warming trend has already resulted in changes to potential landscape plant selections, for example, based on the change in plant hardiness zones. More changes may be coming due to continued climate change, Rice said.
"The latest climate change projections from computer models show that Kansas can be expected to get increasingly warmer, with higher low temperatures, especially in the winter. The eastern half of Kansas is projected to get somewhat wetter, while the western half of the state will likely become drier," Rice said.
To help Kansas residents adapt to and mitigate climate change, scientists at K-State have partnered with scientists at the University of Kansas, Wichita State University and the University of Nebraska on two major projects funded by the National Science Foundation.
One project consists of more than 60 Kansas scientists who are collaborating on the Climate Change and Renewable Energy initiative, a massive research endeavor that has the potential to significantly affect the Kansas economy. The National Science Foundation awarded $20 million to Kansas NSF EPSCoR (Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research) program for this five-year award that began Oct. 1, 2009. The research will provide a better understanding of how climate might further change in Kansas and develop strategies for adaptation and mitigation.
The other project, the Central Great Plains Climate Change Education Project, brings together climate scientists, experts in theories on how people learn science, and formal and informal education experts, to help provide the public with a better understanding of climate change.
Kansas State University scientists are playing key roles in both projects, Rice said.
"Our goal is to prepare Kansas and others in this region of the country for the kind of changes in climate projected for the future, as evidenced by the recent change in the USDA's plant hardiness zone map," the K-State scientist explained.