Inconsistent temperatures cause issues for plants, people, animals

12:19 AM, Jan 9, 2013   |    comments
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The weather in East Tennessee has been very unusual. One day it's cold, the next it's warm.

Garden expert Neal Denton says most plants are able to withstand a major temperature change if it's brief, but the up and down temperature could cause some explosive problems for trees.

Denton, an agent with the Knox County Extension, said, "The fluid in a tree can start to move up in a tree with the temperature rising on one side of the trunk and it will become basically liquid in there and those vessels can fill with water. And then all of a sudden you get a nose dive in temperature, you've got all that liquid in there and that freezes and it can rupture the bark on the tree."

Big changes in temperature are also an issues for people whose jobs rely on the weather, like construction workers. 

Denark Construction Executive Vice President Steve Lucas said, "The cold mornings and then the warm afternoons lead to a lot of wet and soggy conditions pretty much through the whole day and it never really warms up enough to dry out."

Not only do the fluctuating temperatures affect plants and the timetables of construction projects, but the weather extremes can also wreak havoc on outdoor animals.

Dr. David Anderson, head of large animal clinical sciences at the University of Tennessee, said, "[Animals] like that temperate weather where it's in the 50s to low 60s, but when you get out into those extremes that's when they start to have problems."

Anderson said the up and down temperatures combined with rain, like we're expecting later this week, could make things worse for livestock. He said, "Their immune system is dampened down and it makes them more susceptible to illness."

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