Climate modeling has become an important method of attempting to determine the impacts of climate change in years to come. However, climate modeling is not without faults. Climate modeling is an evolving process which is refining along the way. A new study based on plants indicates that some significant tweaking is required for some climate models.
Led by Dr. Elizabeth Wolkovich from the University of British Columbia, the study evaluated flowering and leafing plants for their blooming dates. Published in the journal Nature, the researchers determined that the current climate models are significantly lagging behind the real-time impacts of leafing and flowering plants. The study found that some of the plants are flowering eight times faster than current models indicate they should.
The team analyzed 1,634 plant species located on four different continents. The results indicate that flowering and leafing plants will move up their blooming dates by five to six days a year based on every one degree Celsius it continues to warm.
Wolkovich stated: “What we found is that the experiments don’t line up with the long term data, and in fact they greatly underestimate how much plants change their leading and flowering with warming. […] So for models based on experimental data, then we would expect that plants are leading four times faster and flowering eight times faster in the long term historical record than what we’re using in some of the models.”
The problem appears to be due to the lacking of funding for plant research and lack of community involvement necessary to collect data over vast areas. Programs have begun in a number of countries for amateurs to load details on leafing and flowering dates into main data bases. Such information will prove vital to further study on the impact of warming on plants.
In addition to funding issues, real-life scenarios and laboratory experiments based on plants tend to be vastly different due to factors labs are unable to account for, such as: specific precipitation changes, cloud cover and other minutiae that can have great impacts on leafing and flowering. In the long run, scientists are concerned about the impacts early blooming will have on crops and water supplies.