This is an article from the Summer 2015 VPS. For more VPS articles, click here
Project Team: Northwest U.S. Agriculture III
Team Location: NASA Langley Research Center – Hampton, Virginia
Dr. Kenton Ross (NASA DEVELOP National Program)
Dr. Noel C Baker (NASA Postdoctoral Fellow)
Washington state produces 65 percent of the nation’s apples, adding $2.2 billion to the U.S. economy. Washington’s warm, dry summers and cool, wet winters provide excellent conditions for apple growth. However, there is a strong likelihood that Washington’s suitability for apple farming could be altered by current and future climate change. Currently, the U.S. Department of Agriculture determines which plant species will thrive in a particular location based on its Plant Hardiness Zone (PHZ) Map. Apples grow best when climate conditions match zones 5, 6, or 7. By creating maps of current and projected PHZs, apple growers will be able to decide if it would be beneficial to move apple orchards in the upcoming decades and where the most suitable conditions will be located. Using Aqua MODIS Land Surface Temperature (LST) from 2002 to 2015, minimum temperatures per day and month were extracted to create a present-day PHZ map. Additionally, future climate model air temperature forecasts from the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project Phase 5 (CMIP5) for 2020 to 2100 were used to determine future PHZs. Growing Degree Days (GDD) also were calculated to create orchard suitability maps. Since the ability of apple trees to thrive is dependent on GDDs, PHZs, and average growing season temperature, these maps provided further insight into which regions of Washington may be suitable for apple orchards in the future. Final maps of current and forecasted PHZs will allow stakeholders to identify regions that are currently optimal for apple production, and see how those regions may move with forecasted climate change.