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Category: Climate Change

Secretary Vilsack Visits Puerto Rico to Talk Climate Change and Caribbean Agriculture

Plantains growing in Gurabo, Puerto Rico

Plantains growing in Gurabo, Puerto Rico. Photo by Duamed Colón.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack visited the Caribbean Climate Hub in Puerto Rico earlier this month to lead a roundtable discussions with local agricultural officials, farmers and ranchers, USDA agency leaders, economic investors, and scientists, and to view first-hand the Hub’s pioneering work in climate change research, education and outreach.

“Adaptation to climate change is a matter of National Security.  We need to have a functional food economy to counter food insecurity,” said Secretary Vilsack during the Climate Hub Roundtable held at the El Yunque National Forest.  Local USDA agency leaders expressed concern about the increasing incidence of pests and diseases affecting agriculture and forestry in the Caribbean, mostly related to climate change, and the need for more education and support for water and soil conservation measures. Read more »

Navajo and Hopi Expand the Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow Network

Susie Wauneka

Susie Wauneka is a member of the Navajo Nation and has been an avid CoCoRaHS observer since December 2015.

Susie Wauneka has discovered a unique way to serve her community; by watching the weather. Wauneka is a proud member of Navajo Nation and is a Navajo Community Health Representative, providing critical health care services for members of the Nation. In December 2015, she discovered yet another way to serve—by using a Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow (CoCoRaHS) precipitation gauge to track the amount of rain and snow that falls.

The CoCoRaHS network is a unique grassroots network of thousands of trained volunteers of all ages and backgrounds working together to improve meteorological science by measuring and reporting precipitation amounts (rain, hail, and snow). CoCoRaHS is the largest provider of daily precipitation observations in the United States. The data from these observations are used by USDA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) for tools such as the United States Drought Monitor. Read more »

The Wonders of Wood Buildings

Understanding Carbon Stored in Wood infographic

Forests and wood products are powerful tools to help mitigate the impacts of climate change. (Click to view a larger version)

Trees do plenty of work to sequester carbon on their own, but many forests are not as healthy as they should be due to fire suppression and climate change. This can leave trees vulnerable to large scale insect damage, fire or drought, and much of the carbon stored by forests is lost to the atmosphere as trees die.

The U.S. Forest Service is committed to the storage of carbon using wood products through the green building and wood products strategy. This strategy involves putting people to work in rural communities, enhancing resiliency of our ecosystems, and sequestering carbon by promoting the use of wood products in large building construction. Read more »

Climate Hubs Help APHIS Adapt to Climate Change

Climate Change Adaptation Workshop participants

Participants in the climate change adaptation workshop. Photo credit: Joseph Vorgetts

All this month we will be taking a look at what a changing climate means to Agriculture. The ten regional USDA Climate Hubs were established to synthesize and translate climate science and research into easily understood products and tools that land managers can use to make climate-informed decisions. The Hubs work at the regional level with an extensive network of trusted USDA agency partners, technical service providers, University collaborators, and private sector advisers to ensure they have the information they need to respond to producers that are dealing with the effects of a variable climate. USDA’s Climate Hubs are part of our broad commitment to developing the next generation of climate solutions, so that our agricultural leaders have the modern technologies and tools they need to adapt and succeed in the face of a changing climate.

How important will climate change considerations be in your work in the next 3-5 years?  That was one of the questions USDA employees were asked in mid-April at the start of a two-day workshop at the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) in Riverdale, Maryland.  The hands-on training session, facilitated by APHIS’ Climate Change Working Group, the Forest Service, Northern Forests Climate Hub and the Northern Institute of Applied Climate Science, was designed to help APHIS employees from various program and support units incorporate climate change considerations into their actual projects. Read more »

‘Soil and Air’ – Where Crops Meet the Environment

A person holding soil in hands

Healthy soil. USDA-ARS photo by Peggy Greb

You probably know that climate change affects how we grow food, but you might not know that how food is grown also affects our climate. This interplay is at the heart of an Agricultural Research Service (ARS) project called “Soil and Air,” a concerted effort to feed the Earth’s 7.5 billion people while protecting the planet.

Farmers and ranchers produce food at the intersection of soil and air, which in turn impacts soil and air quality. For instance, warmer air creates warmer soil, leading to different compositions of bacteria and other microbes in the ecosystem and to increased moisture loss through evaporation. Read more »

Climate Change Intensifying Wildfire on National Forests

The Bogus Creek Fire

The Bogus Creek Fire burns in the Yukon Delta National Wildlife Refuge in southwest Alaska, June 7, 2015. Photo credit: Matt Snyder-Alaska Division of Forestry

You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to know that wildfires are more common during hot, dry summers. The area burned in the United States in 2015, over 10 million acres, according to the National Interagency Fire Center, occurred during a record temperature year for the Earth, plus record low snowpack and rainfall in some areas of the West.

The sizzling weather of 2015 was similar to what global climate models project for the year 2060. Last year’s weather and fire may become the new normal later in the 21st century. Read more »