Climate and Our Living World

This episode introduces middle and high school students to the concept that climate is the sum of elevation, temperature, rainfall, and other factors which combine to determine the kinds of plants and animals that live in an area. Dr. Hollis Rogers, a professor of biology at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, leads students on a trip across North Carolina. The trip begins in the Southeastern corner of the state and concludes near the summit of Mount Mitchell. The trip is divided into sections based on the state’s climatic zones, each of which is listed below. Examples of climates shown in this episode are intended to open opportunities for students to research climatic data from a variety of areas in the state. Students can use the data to understand factors that determine the climate across North Carolina.

  1. The Beach: An environment characterized by varying weather conditions and high concentrations of salt. Sand is the predominant soil.
  2. Carolina Beach State Park: The subtropical climate and sandy soil in this area produces a plant community where fire is a primary agent of change. Unique insectivorous plants that grow in this area respond to nutrient-poor soils by capturing insects that provide the nutrients missing in their environment.
  3. Merchants Mill Pond: The climate in the Northeastern portion of the coastal plain has swampy soils and a slightly cooler mean temperature. Cyprus and Tupelo trees flourish in the wet soils and numerous ponds of this climatic zone.
  4. Eno River State Park: This region is a microclimate caused by varying exposure to the sun in the deeply eroded river valley. The plant communities on the North- and South- facing slope of the river differ because of varying amounts of sunlight which strike each slope during a typical day and the resulting difference in seasonal temperatures. North-facing slopes in this river valley host Rhododendron and Mountain Laurel while pines populate the South-facing slopes.
  5. Hanging Rock State Park: This region is as an example of a mature upper Piedmont forest. The climate in this region is characterized by more rainfall. The seasonal temperature range is greater than other regions in the state. Cold winters and moist soils allow growth of a mature oak and hickory forest.
  6. The Blue Ridge Parkway: The increasing elevation in this area results in colder winters and cooler summers. This is the kind of plant community, which thrives, in a wetter and cooler climate.
  7. Mount Mitchell State Park: Located on a crest of the Blue Ridge Mountains, the climate is much more severe in this climatic zone. Only alpine vegetation and animals normally found much further North are able thrive in this area.

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