Phenology Files: December 2022

phenology fi-ˈnä-lə-jē n 1 : a branch of science dealing with the relations between climate and periodic biological phenomena (such as bird migration or plant flowering) 2: periodic biological phenomena that are correlated with climatic conditions.

Finding Climate Connections with Phenology Wheels

What is a phenology wheel?

The practice of creating phenology wheels allows one to hone their observation skills, deeply connect with a place, and notice how it changes over time. A phenology wheel is a circular chart that follows the routines of a given place over the course of chosen time period.

As an incredibly amateur naturalist, consistent weather watcher, and sometimes artist, I thoroughly enjoyed combining science and creativity while creating my first phenology wheel.

I chose to observe the daily weather, inches of precipitation, high and low temperatures, sunset and sunrise times, moon phases, and the high and low tides for Port Angeles over the month of November. Around the wheel itself, I drew some of the natural wonders I’ve witnessed in town or nearby as a result of seasonal shifts.

The circular shape mimics the way the way that the cycles of the natural world and climate are related in phenology. Seemingly small details materialize, and patterns that we might not otherwise notice emerge.

I was particularly interested in the precipitation patterns I recorded:

  • On average, Port Angeles gets 5.1” of precipitation throughout November. This year, it was just about 3.5”. Most of this fell on 4 separate days, while the rest fell over 11 days.

This got my brain going. It means we didn’t get as much precipitation we normally do, but what we did get came in shorter periods of time at higher volumes. How do surges of water affect local rivers, and the fish that live in them? What about the amount of water that the ground can soak up in a short amount of time? Interesting things to think about!

How can I make my own phenology wheel?

The principles behind a phenology wheel are incredibly simple. They can be as detailed, artistic, or scientific as your heart desires – making it a great nature observation activity for all ages and skill levels.

There are three basic circles:

The great thing about a phenology wheel being a circle is that you can start at any point in time!

  • Once you’ve decided on your time scale, grab a template or draw some nested circles.
  • Find your place. Again, the scale is up to you! Maybe it’s your backyard, city, or favorite place to recreate and be in nature.
  • Choose an image, map, or thing that represents the place you are observing to anchor the center of the wheel. Be creative! It could be a found feather or fallen leaf, photo, drawing, or whatever you can dream up.
  • Get into a routine – make observations, look into them, think about what they mean, and add them to your wheel. There’s no right or wrong way to do this – maybe it’s through poems and sketches, or maybe it’s through numbers and charts.
  • Enjoy!

I recommend checking out these great free resources from Partners in Place to get you started. We’d love to see your wheels! Please share them with us by emailing Make at your own risk – I am hooked!

By Lexi Wagor, Community Relations Manager