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Changes in Hardiness Zones

Arbor Day Foundation

This animation illustrates how the hardiness zones for plants have changed between 1990 and 2006 based data from 5,000 National Climatic Data Center cooperative stations across the continental United States.

Learn more about Teaching Climate Literacy and Energy Awareness»

ngssSee how this Animation supports the Next Generation Science Standards»
Middle School: 2 Disciplinary Core Ideas, 3 Cross Cutting Concepts, 1 Science and Engineering Practice
High School: 3 Disciplinary Core Ideas, 2 Cross Cutting Concepts, 1 Science and Engineering Practice

Climate Literacy
About Teaching Climate Literacy

Climate's role in habitats ranges and adaptation of species to climate changes
About Teaching Principle 3
Other materials addressing 3a
Climate change vs. climate variability and patterns
About Teaching Principle 4
Other materials addressing 4c
Ecosystems on land and in the ocean have been and will continue to be disturbed by climate change
About Teaching Principle 7
Other materials addressing 7e

Notes From Our Reviewers The CLEAN collection is hand-picked and rigorously reviewed for scientific accuracy and classroom effectiveness. Read what our review team had to say about this resource below or learn more about how CLEAN reviews teaching materials
Teaching Tips | Science | Pedagogy | Technical Details

Teaching Tips

  • This would be a good tool to introduce the idea that climate warming affects society in various ways.

About the Science

  • Hardiness zones are determined by the coldest wintertime temperature expected in a given location. The actual low temperature could be higher or lower than that specified by the hardiness zone.
  • The Arbor Day Foundation determined a need for a new hardiness zone map and used NOAA data to create the newer 2006 map http://www.arborday.org/media/zonechanges2006.cfm.
  • The US Department of Agriculture continues to use the map they generated in 1990.
  • A related map shows where the largest changes from 1990 to 2006 have occurred: http://www.arborday.org/media/map_change.cfm.
  • Comments from expert scientist: The changes of the hardiness zones in the U.S. are consistent with the phenolgy changes reported in the scientific literature.

About the Pedagogy

  • Comparing the 1990 and 2006 US Hardiness Zones gives students a good idea of how tangibly the climate in the continental US has warmed over 15 years.
  • Emphasizing why gardeners and farmers rely on the hardiness zone maps can help explain their relevance.

Technical Details/Ease of Use

  • When the user presses "play" there is a visible shift in the hardiness zone from 1990 to 2006. When the user presses "difference," the shifts across zones are highlighted.
  • There is some commentary about these maps in the press release - http://www.arborday.org/media/zonechanges2006.cfm
  • A high-resolution version of this map is available for download.

Next Generation Science Standards See how this Animation supports:

Middle School

Disciplinary Core Ideas: 2

MS-LS4.C1:Adaptation by natural selection acting over generations is one important process by which species change over time in response to changes in environmental conditions. Traits that support successful survival and reproduction in the new environment become more common; those that do not become less common. Thus, the distribution of traits in a population changes.

MS-ESS3.C1:Human activities have significantly altered the biosphere, sometimes damaging or destroying natural habitats and causing the extinction of other species. But changes to Earth’s environments can have different impacts (negative and positive) for different living things.

Cross Cutting Concepts: 3


MS-C1.2: Patterns in rates of change and other numerical relationships can provide information about natural and human designed systems

MS-C1.3: Patterns can be used to identify cause and effect relationships.

MS-C1.4:Graphs, charts, and images can be used to identify patterns in data.

Science and Engineering Practices: 1

Analyzing and Interpreting Data

MS-P4.2:Use graphical displays (e.g., maps, charts, graphs, and/or tables) of large data sets to identify temporal and spatial relationships.

High School

Disciplinary Core Ideas: 3

HS-ESS3.C1:The sustainability of human societies and the biodiversity that supports them requires responsible management of natural resources.

HS-LS4.C4:Changes in the physical environment, whether naturally occurring or human induced, have thus contributed to the expansion of some species, the emergence of new distinct species as populations diverge under different conditions, and the decline–and sometimes the extinction–of some species.

HS-LS4.D1:Humans depend on the living world for the resources and other benefits provided by biodiversity. But human activity is also having adverse impacts on biodiversity through overpopulation, overexploitation, habitat destruction, pollution, introduction of invasive species, and climate change. Thus sustaining biodiversity so that ecosystem functioning and productivity are maintained is essential to supporting and enhancing life on Earth. Sustaining biodiversity also aids humanity by preserving landscapes of recreational or inspirational value.

Cross Cutting Concepts: 2


HS-C1.1:Different patterns may be observed at each of the scales at which a system is studied and can provide evidence for causality in explanations of phenomena

HS-C1.5:Empirical evidence is needed to identify patterns.

Science and Engineering Practices: 1

Analyzing and Interpreting Data

HS-P4.1:Analyze data using tools, technologies, and/or models (e.g., computational, mathematical) in order to make valid and reliable scientific claims or determine an optimal design solution.

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