Subtle benefits of warmer weather

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webmaster | 01/26/12
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Those of us who farm or raise gardens have known for many years that the weather has gradually been getting warmer, and many see it as a benefit. It has meant that some plant varieties that could only be grown in warmer latitudes now can be grown in formerly cooler latitudes.

Even the federal government is admitting this, long after gardeners have known it, and as a result the familiar colored maps on seed packets showing where certain varieties could be planted with the best results are reflecting these changes.

The new growing patterns aren’t huge, by the way. You won’t see bananas growing any time soon in Montana, and you won’t see many date palm plantations in North Dakota. But gardeners and some farmers in northerly climates are experimenting with plants they wouldn’t have considered before, and grain yields in Canada have increased slightly over the years, with some credit being given to a slightly longer growing season.

It would appear, then, that global warming isn’t necessarily all bad — at least not now. Increases in plant yields are beneficial. When the weather is slightly warmer, heating costs are slightly lower, and less carbon dioxide is thrown into the air from the burning of fossil fuels.

Cooling in the summer might be another matter. A lot of us were alive before air conditioning came along, and we were glad when it became possible to stay cool on the hottest days because of a machine humming away in a window or on the side of the house. But that uses electricity, the majority of which is generated using fossil fuels.

Arizonans say air conditioning made the growth of Phoenix possible, but the people in Arizona who preceded Europeans had air conditioning figured out before there was electricity. They used ambient heat. They built where warm air rose, and took advantage of breezes blowing over damp blankets which they would put in strategic places to catch the air and cool it. Today, we call that evaporative cooling.

 

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