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YOU ARE HERE Articles Science News Nov 8, 2003 Content provided in partnership with
Print friendly Tell a friend Find subscription deals Frosty Florida: spread of agriculture may promote freezes
Science News Nov 8, 2003 by K. Ramsayer
Sunny southern Florida seems like a perfect place to grow fruits and vegetables, even in the winter. But the 20th-century transformation of what had been wetlands into croplands might have had unintended consequences. The shift has made the area more susceptible to crop-damaging freezes, researchers suspect. In the early 1900s, much of Florida's citrus industry moved south to areas of the state that seemed the least prone to ruinous freezes. To make room for orchards and farms, people drained wetlands and diverted rivers, actions that affected the local climate, say Roger A. Pielke Sr. and Curtis H. Marshall of Colorado State University in Fort Collins and Louis T. Steyaert of the U.S. Geological Survey in Greenbelt, Md. The scientists mathematically reconstructed south Florida's pre-1900 plant cover and mapped the area's current vegetation. By plugging these data into a weather-modeling program that Pielke and another colleague developed, he and Marshall could predict the temperatures before and after the draining of the wetlands.