In his January 25 address to Congress President Obama acknowledged that climate change legislation has little chance of passage in 2012. That does not slow the flow of news about climate change. For example, gardeners now have official confirmation that their growing season and what they can grow is changing. For the first time since 1990 the US Dept. Agriculture has adjusted its maps for plant hardiness zones. In general, there is a shift of half a 10 deg F zone for the US, although the USDA does caution that some of the shift is due to the use of a longer period used for averaging than was used for the 1990 maps.
Based on the annual Extreme Minimum Temperature for 1976 to 2005, Pittsburgh is in Zone 6b (-10 to -5 deg F) along the Monongahela and Ohio Valleys and Zone 6a (-5 to 0 deg F) elsewhere west of the Ridges.
Supporting the fact that Earth’s surface temperature is trending upwards, on January 11 NASA released data showing that “The global average surface temperature in 2011 was the ninth warmest since 1880, according to NASA scientists. The finding continues a trend in which nine of the 10 warmest years in the modern meteorological record have occurred since the year 2000.” A world map is used to show how the surface temperatures have changed each year from 1884. What should be alarming to Members of Congress is amount of red over the Arctic in the last decade.
As to the very probable cause of global warming, the EPA has released its 2010 inventory for green house gas emissions from large sources. Stating with a map of the lower 48 states map, it is possible to quickly focus in on emissions from a particular source. For example, among the nine sites in or close to Pittsburgh, emissions from the University of Pittsburgh totaled 4,825 Metric Tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (MTCO2e), and from the nearby Bellefiled Boiler plant the emissions for 2010 amounted to 83,750 (MTCO2e). Interesting stuff.