New peer reviewed paper refutes claims of blizzards of last winter being driven by "global warming"

Paging Joe Romm:

In fact, this record-breaking snowstorm is pretty much precisely what climate science predicts.  Since one typically can’t make a direct association between any individual weather event and global warming, perhaps the best approach is to borrow and modify a term from the scientific literature and call this a “global-warming-type” deluge.

From Columbia Earth Institute, home to NASA GISS:

“This paper explains what happened, and why global warming was not really involved. It helps build credibility in climate science.”

See PR below and a link to the full paper follows. Hemisphere winter snow anomalies: ENSO, NAO and the winter of 2009/10, Geophys. Res. Lett., 37, L14703, doi:10.1029/2010GL043830.

Via Eurekalert: Converging weather patterns caused last winter’s huge snows

Last winter was the snowiest on record for Washington, D.C., and several other East Coast cities. Image via Eurekalert Credit: FamousDC.com

The memory of last winter’s blizzards may be fading in this summer’s searing heat, but scientists studying them have detected a perfect storm of converging weather patterns that had little relation to climate change. The extraordinarily cold, snowy weather that hit parts of the U.S. East Coast and Europe was the result of a collision of two periodic weather patterns in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, a new study in the journal Geophysical Research Letters finds.

It was the snowiest winter on record for Washington D.C., Baltimore and Philadelphia, where more than six feet of snow fell over each. After a blizzard shut down the nation’s capital, skeptics of global warming used the frozen landscape to suggest that manmade climate change did not exist, with the family of conservative senator James Inhofe posing next to an igloo labeled “Al Gore’s new home.”

After analyzing 60 years of snowfall measurements, a team of scientists at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory found that the anomalous winter was caused by two colliding weather events. El Niño, the cyclic warming of the tropical Pacific, brought wet weather to the southeastern U.S. at the same time that a strong negative phase in a pressure cycle called the North Atlantic Oscillation pushed frigid air from the arctic down the East Coast and across northwest Europe. End result: more snow.

Using a different dataset, climate scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration came to a similar conclusion in a report released in March.

“Snowy winters will happen regardless of climate change,” said Richard Seager, a climate scientist at Lamont-Doherty and lead author of the study. “A negative North Atlantic Oscillation this particular winter made the air colder over the eastern U.S., causing more precipitation to fall as snow. El Niño brought even more precipitation—which also fell as snow.”

In spite of last winter’s snow, the decade 2000-2009 was the warmest on record, with 2009 tying a cluster of other recent years as the second warmest single year. Earth’s climate has warmed 0.8°C (1.5°F) on average since modern record keeping began, and this past June was the warmest ever recorded.

While the heavy snow on the East Coast and northwest Europe dominated headlines this winter, the Great Lakes and western Canada actually saw less snow than usual—typical for an El Niño year, said Seager. Warm and dry weather in the Pacific Northwest forced the organizers of the 2010 Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver to lug in snow by truck and helicopter to use on ski and snowboarding slopes. The arctic also saw warmer weather than usual, but fewer journalists were there to take notes.

“If Fox News had been based in Greenland they might have had a different story,” said Seager.

While El Niño can now be predicted months in advance by monitoring slowly evolving conditions in the tropical Pacific Ocean, the North Atlantic Oscillation— the difference in air pressure between the Icelandic and Azores regions—is a mostly atmospheric phenomenon, very chaotic and difficult to anticipate, said Yochanan Kushnir, a climate scientist at Lamont-Doherty and co-author of the study.

The last time the North Atlantic experienced a strong negative phase, in the winter of 1995-1996, the East Coast was also hammered with above average snowfall. This winter, the North Atlantic Oscillation was even more negative–a state that happens less than 1 percent of the time, said Kushnir.

“The events of last winter remind us that the North Atlantic Oscillation, known mostly for its impact on European and Mediterranean winters, is also playing a potent role in its backyard in North America,” he said.

David Robinson, a climate scientist at Rutgers University who was not involved in the research, said the study fills an important role in educating the public about the difference between freak weather events and human-induced climate change.

“When the public experiences abnormal weather, they want to know what’s causing it,” he said. “This paper explains what happened, and why global warming was not really involved. It helps build credibility in climate science.”

###

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Here’s the full paper (PDF, thanks to Leif Svalgaard)

Abstract:

Winter 2009/10 had anomalously large snowfall in the central parts of the United States and in northwestern Europe. Connections between seasonal snow anomalies and the large scale atmospheric circulation are explored. An El Niño state is associated with positive snowfall anomalies in the southern and central United States and along the eastern seaboard and negative anomalies to the north. A negative NAO causes positive snow anomalies across eastern North America and in northern Europe. It is argued that increased snowfall in the southern U.S. is contributed to by a southward displaced storm track but further north, in the eastern U.S. and northern Europe, positive snow anomalies arise from the cold temperature anomalies of a negative NAO. These relations are used with observed values of NINO3 and the NAO to conclude that the negative NAO and El Niño event were responsible for the northern hemisphere snow anomalies of winter 2009/10.

Citation: Seager, R., Y. Kushnir, J. Nakamura, M. Ting, and N. Naik (2010), Northern Hemisphere winter snow anomalies: ENSO, NAO and the winter of 2009/10, Geophys. Res. Lett., 37, L14703, doi:10.1029/2010GL043830.

Figure 1. The correlation of snowfall with (top left) the NINO3 index, (bottom left) the NAO index and (top right) the standardized NINO3 minus standardized NAO (NINO‐NAO) index and (bottom right) the regression of snowfall on the NINO‐NAO index. All indices and the snowfall are for the winter (December to March) mean. Units for the regression are inches. -click to enlarge

Conclusions

[11] In winters when an El Niño event and a negative NAO combine, analyses reveal that there are positive snow anomalies across the southern U.S. and northern Europe. In western North America and the southeast U.S. snow anomalies are associated with total precipitation anomalies and southward shifts in the storm track. In the eastern U.S., north of the Southeast, and in northwest Europe positive snow anomalies are associated with the cold temperature anomalies accompanying a negative NAO. The relations between large‐scale climate indices and snow anomalies were used to attribute the snow anomalies for the 2009/10 winter with notable success in pattern and amplitude. We conclude that the anomalously high levels of snow in the mid‐Atlantic states of the U.S. and in northwest Europe this past winter were forced primarily by the negative NAO and to a lesser extent by the El Niño. The El Niño was predicted but, in the absence of a reliable seasonal timescale prediction of the NAO, the seasonal snow anomalies were not predicted. Until the NAO can be predicted (which may not be possible [Kushnir et al., 2006]), such snow anomalies as closed down Washington D.C. for a week will remain a seasonal surprise.

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And yet after all that, Columbia still had to put this piece of CYA as a subtitle in their Press Release:

A Warming World Can Still See Severe Storms

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This is like skeet shooting!

MattN

“The El Niño was predicted but, in the absence of a reliable seasonal timescale prediction of the NAO, the seasonal snow anomalies were not predicted”
Didn’t Bastardi predict it rather accurately?
REPLY: There’s a huge difference between pattern recognition (skill based) and model forecast output. – Anthony

[snip – while funny, some people will purposely misinterpret this ~mod]

El Niño, the cyclic warming of the tropical Pacific, brought wet weather to the southeastern U.S. at the same time that a strong negative phase in a pressure cycle called the North Atlantic Oscillation pushed frigid air from the arctic down the East Coast and across northwest Europe. End result: more snow.

Last I checked, Dallas and Houston aren’t on the East Coast… Nor are they in northwest Europe.

“Snowy winters will happen regardless of climate change,” said Richard Seager, a climate scientist at Lamont-Doherty and lead author of the study.
???
According to Dr David Viner, a senior research scientist at the climatic research unit (CRU) of the University of East Anglia,within a few years winter snowfall will become “a very rare and exciting event. Children just aren’t going to know what snow is,” he said.

Pamela Gray

Yet another clear report that climate is nothing more than a generalization and bracketed extreme range based on the typical series of weather pattern variations that by and large describes the climate of a particular geographic zone. To say that climate is not weather and weather is not climate is just ludicrous.
This understanding will one day creep into the verbiage of AGW’ers and they will soon twist it by claiming the sky is falling on “weather pattern/range change”. Instead of the slow “climate” creep of .00005 degrees per decade (sarc/off), they will cry over range change, weather pattern change, etc and will leave the idea of “climate” in the dust as a non-traction item.

kim

I have little use for him, but Michael Tobis called this correctly, too. Joe Romm is just a sad little paid political propagandist. So much dissonance over there; so little time for tuning.
=====================

How refreshing to have something that not only doesn’t trot out the usual “Global Warming caused it” mantra, but actually counters it.

Peter

What many (most?) people either don’t realize, or fail to acknowledge, is that – given the same amount of energy in the earth/atmosphere system – if it’s anomalously cold (or warm) in one area then it must be anomalously warm (or cold) somewhere else. Or it could be almost imperceptibly warmer (or colder) over a much larger area somewhere else.
And if you’re inadequately measuring the temperature at that ‘somewhere else’ then it’s easy to be misled – or to mislead others.

pgosselin: July 26, 2010 at 10:34 am
This is like skeet shooting!
With the clay pigeons loading the shotgun and handing it to you before they climb onto the trap…

More likely by the Arctic circulation:
http://www.vukcevic.talktalk.net/PS.htm

Khwarizmi

“Snowy winters will happen regardless of climate change,” said Richard Seager, a climate scientist at Lamont-Doherty and lead author of the study.
====
According to Dr David Viner, a senior research scientist at the climatic research unit (CRU) of the University of East Anglia, within a few years winter snowfall will become “a very rare and exciting event”.
Children just aren’t going to know what snow is,” he said.
http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/snowfalls-are-now-just-a-thing-of-the-past-724017.html
====
In some years the amount that fell was 60 per cent lower than was typical in the early 1980s, said Christoph Marty, from the Swiss Federal Institute for Snow and Avalanche Research in Davos, who analysed the records.
I don’t believe we will see the kind of snow conditions we have experienced in past decades,” he said.
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/earthnews/3342553/Climate-change-threat-to-alpine-ski-resorts.html
===
Frequently Asked Question 4.1
Is the Amount of Snow and Ice on the Earth Decreasing?
Yes
http://www.ipcc.ch/publications_and_data/ar4/wg1/en/faq-4-1.html
===
Anyway, there is no longer such a thing as snow: it is now called “extreme weather.”

Evan Jones

Well it looks as if the New Word is that last winter’s harsh conditions were not because of global warming but in spite of global warming.
Well, when one backs down, it is best to do it one step at a time . . .

rbateman

Nice article, except for this:
“In spite of last winter’s snow, the decade 2000-2009 was the warmest on record, with 2009 tying a cluster of other recent years as the second warmest single year. ”
The 2009/10 El Nino was not at the level of 1998, and then there is the cold air plunging that produced all that snow.
To have it the second warmest with all that snow is not logical.
The expectation is that the El Nino warmth was counteracted by the Arctic Air Masses to some extent.
Something is not right with 2nd warmest ever.

peterhodges

the quoted eureka article still goes on and on with same bs AGW propaganda.
“…warmest this, warmest that…”

rbateman

Pamela Gray says:
July 26, 2010 at 10:51 am
To say that climate is not weather and weather is not climate is just ludicrous.

It’s as bad as saying a year is not time, but a century is.
Without weather, there is no climate.
Maybe that is what is wrong with the GCM’s and the blown forecasts.

CodeTech

The memory of last winter’s blizzards may be fading in this summer’s searing heat

This sounds ridiculous to me… there hasn’t been any “searing heat” here, we’re still waiting on summer. Crops went in late, we’re a month behind on our usual precipitation patterns, even flowering plants are all late (3-4 weeks late on peonies).
I realize that there’s a heatwave on the East Coast, but definitely not here in the West.
So for those few who think the anomalous heat where YOU happen to be is meaningful, it’s not. I’d gladly trade this chilly season for some of that heat.
And one only needs to travel one continent south to see the REAL cold. People die for real when it’s colder than usual. And yet, all in all, I have yet to see weather in my lifetime that is outside of “normal”… a word that encompasses a tremendous variation.

Tenuc

Not read the full paper, but I don’t think it explains why the whole of the NH had so much snow?
Climate is just the history of weather averaged over a long period and says nothing useful about the extremes of what we have to cope with in any particular place. Unfortunately cold kills far more than does warm and catering for the current cooler weather regimen is more important than spending money on the hypothesis of CAGW.

Cold and snow in Florida is clearly due to warmth. The hotter it gets, the more snow and cold we can expect.
If it keeps warming up, people will be travelling to Cancun for ski vacations, maybe even the equator. Costa Rica may well be the site of the 2022 Winter Olympics. The snow will be blistering hot.

In order to succeed in this profession, you have to demonstrate the ability to subvert any semblance of common sense or a rational thought process.

James Sexton

Bookmarked! Using this “peer-reviewed” paper should be fun! Hope the authors don’t get put on some list or something.

GeorgeGr

My take is that this paper is more about disproving that the extreme winter is not evidence against AGW, is is “only weather”. On the other hand, all warm weather events, or any out of thenordinary weather events not stated in peer reviewed literature to not be proof of AGW is of course proof of AGW.
sigh…

Former_Forecaster

Used to be a weather forecaster…back in the days when the alarmists were screaming that man-made pollution was causing a new ice age. This was based on the global cooling that occurred between the 1940s and the 1970s–cooling that has vanished with newly implemented methods of data ‘homogenization’ and ‘normalization’. It is implausible that every data alteration pushes the data toward global warming. Of course, this is exactly what one would expect when religionist priests are in charge of ‘climate science’. The results look exactly like ‘creation science’.
Anyway, as for unexpected snowfall, we had a saying: “Climate is what you expect; weather is what you get.”

Alan F

“The arctic also saw warmer weather than usual, but fewer journalists were there to take notes.” Yet the Canadian military were there and my brother said “same old same old” when I asked him… maybe the massive event was too sleight to notice without a model to show you the difference?
““If Fox News had been based in Greenland they might have had a different story,” said Seager.” Again the opposite side of that coin was they would be back to wheat and barley farming on Greenland in no time.

Vorlath

“Warm and dry weather in the Pacific Northwest forced the organizers of the 2010 Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver to lug in snow by truck and helicopter to use on ski and snowboarding slopes.”
I hate when people use the Vancouver winter Olympics. They brought in snow for some of the lower altitude events which always have hit or miss weather. Vancouver itself almost never goes below freezing. It’s standard procedure to get snow for world events. Whistler was fine for example. Basically, this was a news event that was a non-issue. It wasn’t blown out of proportions as much as it was completely made up and made into an alarmist event. Sound familiar?

Henry chance

Joe Romm said droughts would be permanent with heat.
Climate Progress is a sad member of the Journolist cabel.

Aviator

From the article: “Warm and dry weather in the Pacific Northwest forced the organizers of the 2010 Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver to lug in snow by truck and helicopter to use on ski and snowboarding slopes.”
The usual nonsense. This applied only to Cypress Mountain, which is always a gamble snow-wise. The rest of the BC ski slopes had more than enough for the Olympics and beyoond; in fact, Mount Washington (named after the admiral, not George) opened for skiing on Fathers’ Day and management has had to use bulldozers to clear the mountain bike trails. No lack of snow on the West Coast, media notwithstanding.

Henry chance

Well. A few days ago D.C. was hot. We have moisture blow in and now storms knock out power. Now it has been adjusted by weather patterns and cooler and wet.

R Shearer

There is no way to win an argument against AGW when it can “cause” a myriad of seemingly opposite effects. That said, it is reassuring to know that reason still sometimes prevails.
It would be nice to see a similar explanation for the extreme heat expienced of late in the East and Midwest.

Frank K.

“This paper explains what happened, and why global warming was not really involved. It helps build credibility in climate science.”
It’s curious that the authors relate credibility in climate “science” to the fact that global warming was not involved…
Anyhow, let’s check the temperature at Vostok…looks like it’s warmed a bit.
Vostok, Antarctica (Airport)
Updated: 1 hr 2 min 17 sec ago
Overcast
-98 F

R. Gates

Hmmm…this is news? I remember saying the exact same thing while it was happening last winter. El Nino plus the negative AO index is what caused last winters “snow in Florida”. While I believe that AGW is likely happening, I would never try to relate one season’s weather to it.
AGW can only been seen in looking at patterns of weather over many years.
But it’s nice to know I was right last winter about the anomalous weather.
[Reply: Weather is anomalous.]

I said it then, I’ll say it again. We already had proof that the Global Warming / Blizzard line was bunk. To blizzard was supposed to have happened because global warming creates more precipitation. Has there been more precipitation world wide?????? NOPE!

R. Gates

(SUPERFLUOUS PAGES REMOVED)
stevengoddard says:
July 26, 2010 at 11:31 am
Cold and snow in Florida is clearly due to warmth. The hotter it gets, the more snow and cold we can expect.
___________
Steve, I do recall us talking about this very issue last winter. I pointed out the convergence of weather systems (El Nino + the negative AO index) as the cause of the snow in Florida. We also talked about the fact that Colorado’s snowiest months are not the coldest months. Cold air can’t hold as much moisture of course. Also of course, everyone knows that the one of the driest regions on earth in terms of precipitation is also the coldest…Antarctica.
REPLY: You had 4 pages of quotes from the thread, which was too large and looked like a copy/paste error on your part. I’ve pared it down to the relevant quote which I think you are responding to. – Anthony

jorgekafkazar

Peter says: “What many (most?) people either don’t realize, or fail to acknowledge, is that – given the same amount of energy in the earth/atmosphere system – if it’s anomalously cold (or warm) in one area then it must be anomalously warm (or cold) somewhere else. Or it could be almost imperceptibly warmer (or colder) over a much larger area somewhere else. And if you’re inadequately measuring the temperature at that ‘somewhere else’ then it’s easy to be misled – or to mislead others.”
True. Note also that heat input at point A to vaporize x megatons of seawater doesn’t equal the heat removed to create x megatons of snow at point B. Additional heat must be lost to turn x megatons of rain into snow.

Henry chance

I recall Joe Romms’s claim that Air France #447 went down due to global warming before they even found the crash site.

Jimbo

From Canada Free Press 25 July 2010
California snowfall unchanged over past century
California’s southern Sierra snowfall has not changed over the past century, according to John Christy, a native Californian and atmospheric researcher who’s now in charge of the global temperature-measuring satellites. Christy reconstructed snowfall records at Huntington Lake, CA, from 1916–2009.”
Source: J. Christy and J. Hnilo; “Changes in the Snowfall of the Southern Sierra Nevada of California since 1916.” Energy and Environment, Vol. 21; 2010.

Gail Combs

I think it will take a glacier arriving in Washington DC to kill the CAGW monster…. Of course one should always be careful what one wishes for:
… one of FDR’s advisors, Hugh Hammond Bennett, was in Washington D.C. on his way to testify before Congress about the need for soil conservation legislation. A dust storm arrived in Washington all the way from the Great Plains. As a dusty gloom spread over the nation’s capital and blotted out the sun, Bennett explained, “This, gentlemen, is what I have been talking about.”
The most visible evidence of how dry the 1930s became was the dust storm. Tons of topsoil were blown off barren fields and carried in storm clouds for hundreds of miles…. The Dust Bowl got its name after Black Sunday, April 14, 1935…. By 1934, it was estimated that 100 million acres of farmland had lost all or most of the topsoil to the winds. By April 1935, there had been weeks of dust storms, but the cloud that appeared on the horizon that Sunday was the worst. Winds were clocked at 60 mph. Then it hit.
“The impact is like a shovelful of fine sand flung against the face,” Avis D. Carlson wrote in a New Republic article. “People caught in their own yards grope for the doorstep. Cars come to a standstill, for no light in the world can penetrate that swirling murk… We live with the dust, eat it, sleep with it, watch it strip us of possessions and the hope of possessions. It is becoming real…
Technically, the driest region of the Plains – southeastern Colorado, southwest Kansas and the panhandles of Oklahoma and Texas – became known as the Dust Bowl, and many dust storms started there. But the entire region, and eventually the entire country, was affected.”
http://www.livinghistoryfarm.org/farminginthe30s/water_02.html
After reading about the 1930’s dustbowl, and comparing it to today, one realizes what a tempest in a teapot CAGW is and how devastating it would be if we relied on the 1930’s or before methods to grow food.
1/3 of the population of the southern plains/dust bowl area sickened and died – not of starvation, but of “dust pneumonia” (i.e. lungs and body just filled up with dirt) http://www.ishthink.org/the_worst_hard_time_book_about_dust_bowl_and_great_depression
Here is the US temperatures (raw and adjusted)
http://i31.tinypic.com/5vov3p.jpg

Stephen Wilde

I got there first:
http://climaterealists.com/attachments/database/Winter20092010.pdf
“Winter 2009 / 2010 – The Explanation”
Save that it’s ENSO and the AO (Arctic Oscillation) that run the show for the northern hemisphere rather than El Nino and the NAO.

Doug in Dunedin

Tenuc says: July 26, 2010 at 11:25 am
Not read the full paper, but I don’t think it explains why the whole of the NH had so much snow? Climate is just the history of weather averaged over a long period and says nothing useful about the extremes of what we have to cope with in any particular place.
From what I have read here on WUWT over the last 12 months the records show it has been very cold throughout the Northern Hemisphere in its last winter and it is very cold here in the Southern Hemisphere this winter. My observation of last summer’s weather here (NZ) was that it was quite cool. But all of these reports are from separate places and are termed ‘just weather’ and so dismissed by the so called experts who ‘manage’ the global data. This global data is called (by them) CLIMATE. What I find surprising is that all the individual reports and my own observations lead me to conclude that it has been rather cool in the world last year, yet these expert climatologists say it the second warmest on record. So everyone says its cold where they live but the experts who don’t live there say it’s warm. Year right!
Doug

Enneagram

Global Warming mantras are not repeated so often as years ago, THEY are losing momentum. What is it now Al baby whereabouts?

crosspatch

““If Fox News had been based in Greenland they might have had a different story,” said Seager.”
Interesting how the obligatory zing at Fox makes its way into the story. That right there tells me that the article has a political bent. There is only really one reason for doing that. I don’t recall Fox reporting anything other than it was really snowy.
That one sentence right there tells me that article is junk.

Enneagram

Surely HE is now in the warming generated by friction business….:-)

MattN

“REPLY: There’s a huge difference between pattern recognition (skill based) and model forecast output. – Anthony”
So, Bastardi is better than the models, yes/no?

Kate

This is nothing to do with climate, or science. This is all about doing serious violence to the English language, and mangling the meanings of words. After a while, nearly every word will have several meanings and can be interpreted in any way anyone wants, the significance or relevance of any particular word or phrase being lost.

JimB

“Peter says:
July 26, 2010 at 11:04 am
What many (most?) people either don’t realize, or fail to acknowledge, is that – given the same amount of energy in the earth/atmosphere system – if it’s anomalously cold (or warm) in one area then it must be anomalously warm (or cold) somewhere else. Or it could be almost imperceptibly warmer (or colder) over a much larger area somewhere else.
And if you’re inadequately measuring the temperature at that ‘somewhere else’ then it’s easy to be misled – or to mislead others.”
So given what’s going on in South America right now, which will likely cause grave damage to the producers of my cherished Malbacs and Carmeneres, is that precipitous or POSTcipitous? 🙂
What’s the forecast for the Northeast for this coming winter? 🙂
JimB

Just for you R Gates –
Colorado’s ten snowiest sites. Peak snow months are December and January, the two coldest months.
https://spreadsheets.google.com/oimg?key=0AnKz9p_7fMvBdGhHc01yT25Ic0Nvcnc4SWNCWTlnSWc&oid=3&zx=26zy53k06nlz
Believe it or not, your location near Denver is not representative of the entire state.

Ray

The temperature anomaly is calculated against an average temperature. What the present research show is that the standard deviation of the average weather is important and sometimes it can get out of the “normal” range. It would certainly be interesting to see the standard deviation on the temperature anomaly graphs. That would certainly put things in perspectives when they claim the hottest years ever…

The snowiest month in Florida must be July, because it is also the warmest and the most moisture is available.

Pamela Gray

Climate has always been in my mind a definition of the range extremes for all weather related parameters. Traditional climate zones use range extremes to designate each zone. When I was in high school studying geography, our Atlas included something similar along with other kinds of information, like temperature extremes. Other areas around the globe have also been divided into climate zones based on range. Here are two sources of information related to the traditional understanding of climate.
http://www.backyardgardener.com/zone/index.html#usda
http://www.usna.usda.gov/Hardzone/ushzmap.html