Phenology

1 01 2008

I had an interesting conversation at last night’s New Year’s Eve party about the concept of phenology. This is the study of the timing of recurring natural phenomena, such as the spring emergence of leaves or the cycles of insect hatches. Phenology has been used for hundreds of years to determine planting dates and other human activities centered around agriculture. As a matter of fact, phenological observations often produced proverbs, such as “If the oak is out before the ash, ’twill be a summer of wet and splash. If the ash is out before the oak,’twill be a summer of fire and smoke.”

Phenological records of wine harvests and other annual events are now being used in the study of climate change, and have served as the basis for a variety of farmers’ almanacs. Of course, new technology has changed the way events are studied, since large geographic areas can now be observed via infrared cameras on satellites.

And no, this doesn’t have any relevance to the new year or any other topics I’ve written about. It just seemed interesting.

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2 responses

2 01 2008
Josh

I study phenology (grad student). Your post came up on my google alert. Lilacs are where it’s at – big range, little genetic variation = great for researching climat change.

Check out:
http://www.uwm.edu/Dept/Geography/npn/

4 01 2008
thebee6

Yes! The Arnold Arboretum has been keeping track of leafing-out and bloom times on their plants (including and especially the lilac collection) for decades, and with its solid record of how bloom times they can show that the Boston zone is getting warmer and show how the warming affects the plants. Hard to refute that kind of evidence….

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