New USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map • Earth.com

New USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map • Earth.com

The USDA, in collaboration with Oregon State University’s PRISM Climate Group, has released an updated plant hardiness zone map. This map is an important tool for gardeners and farmers, helping them identify plants that are likely to tolerate cold winter temperatures in specific locations.

The new map, which has been hailed as the most accurate and detailed version to date, leverages contributions from the PRISM Climate Group, part of The Ohio State University College of Engineering.

PRISM, which stands for Parameter Rise Regressions in Independent Slopes Model, is instrumental in providing data for this map. Compared to the previous version released in 2012, the 2023 map includes data from almost twice as many weather stations (13,412, up from 7,983).

Amazing changes

This map reflects major changes. It uses 30-year average temperatures from 1991 to 2020, replacing the 1976 to 2005 averages used in the 2012 version. This shift in data range is part of the PRISM routine of updating climate standards every decade.

One of the key insights from the 2023 vegetation map is the overall warming trend across the United States. Christopher Daly, director of the climate group PRISM and lead author of the map, noted that the new map is 2.5 degrees warmer on average than the 2012 map. This warming has shifted about half the country into a half zone that is 5 degrees warmer.

13 plant hardiness zones

The map’s division into 13 zones, each representing a 10 degree Fahrenheit temperature range, and further detailed into two 5 degree half zones, remains constant. However, warming trends caused noticeable shifts, especially in the Central Plains and Midwest, while the southwestern United States showed minimal warming.

The map is available in an interactive GIS-based format, making it accessible and easy to use. Additionally, USDA has included a “Tips for Farmers” feature to provide useful information related to Agricultural Research Service programs.

This map is not just a tool for about 80 million American gardeners and farmers; It also plays an important role in scientific research and standards related to agriculture. For example, the USDA’s risk management agency uses the map to set certain standards for crop insurance, and scientists incorporate plant hardiness zones into research models, including those that study the spread of unique weeds and insects.

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