Will Climate Change Make Your Hometown Full of Palm Trees? (This Is Literally a Story About Palm Trees, Not a Leading Question) - Modern Farmer

Will Climate Change Make Your Hometown Full of Palm Trees? (This Is Literally a Story About Palm Trees, Not a Leading Question)

Palms in the northeast? Not impossible.

Ah, sunshine. MAYBE.
Photography Varin on Flickr

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.

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4 years ago

Great article! Scary in a way. If global warming or whatever is going on continues, we will see palm trees in eastern Canada! I love palm trees, but I do worry about the rising temps. Thanks for the great article!

Kiwi Dwayne
6 months ago

Climate change is another question that worries most of us. That is why both responsible people and businesses try to reduce the negative impact on nature. No exception even in the agricultural sector. Thus, new technologies help us to save the climate. According to the following research eos.com/blog/top-5-newest-technologies-in-agriculture/, modern farmers use satellites, GIS and GPS, drones, merging datasets, and other software for their purposes. This way, we see a conscious approach to natural resources. Hope this attitude will be supported by future generations as well.