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The second major variable in the study was the choice of locations for testing the cleaners. Did the biological growth found on headstones differ by location? Would bacteriai, algaes, or fungi dominate in some locations and not in others? How would climatic differences affect cleaning decisions? Would some cleaners perform better in some geographic areas and worse in others? To look at these issues, the team felt it was important to choose cemeteries that were geographically and climatically distinct.

Climate is the trends in weather patterns over an extended period of time. Two of the most important factors determining an area’s climate are air temperature and precipitation. One way to classify climatic zones is using the Kˆppen Climate classification system. Within this system, five major climate types are classified based on average temperatures and precipitation, and designated by a capital letter. Subgroups are designated by a second, lower case letter which distinguish specific seasonal characteristics of temperature and precipitation. Further variations are noted by additional subgroups.4

In addition to climatic zones, NCA cemeteries are assigned to Memorial Service Networks (MSNs) based on their geographic location. The MSN offices are located in Philadelphia (MSN 1), Atlanta (MSN 2), Denver (MSN 3), Indianapolis (MSN 4) and Oakland (MSN 5).

Cemetery History Climate Zone Climate Description
San Francisco
National Cemetery,
San Francisco, CA
MSN 5 ñ Oakland, CA
First burial: 1850
The site was formerly
part of an military post
established by the
Spanish, continued by
Mexico, and seized by
the United States
Forces during the
Mexican War.
Zone Csb, using the
Kˆppen Climate
classification system,
This region is
characterized by
temperate wet winters
contrasting with warm
or hot summers.† The
average annual
rainfall is between 15
and 55 inches and
occurs between
November and April.
Santa Fe National
Santa Fe, NM
MSN 3 ñ Denver, CO
First burial:1868
Original interments
are the remains of
265 United States
Soldiers for the
battlefields of Glorieta,
Koslouskys, and the
Old Fort March
(General Kearneyís
Camp of 1847).
Zone Bsk,
Semi-arid steppe
The steppe climate is
characterized by hot
summers and cold
winters with 10 to 20
inches of rain or
snowfall a year.† It is
similar to a praire.
Jefferson Barracks
National Cemetery
St. Louis, MO
MSN 4 ñ
Indianapolis, IN
First burial: 1827
The national cemetery
included the old Post
Cemetery containing
burials made as early
as 1827 from the
Garrison of Jefferson
Zone Dfa,�
Humid continental
This region is
characterized by a
humid, cold climate
with harsh winters and
Alexandria National
Pineville, LA
MSN 2 ñ Atlanta, GA
First burial: 1867
The cemetery
contains burials from
the civil war through
the present.
Zone Cfa
Humid Sub-tropical
This region is
characterized as a
mild climate with no
dry season, and a hot
Bath National
Bath, NY
MSN 1 ñ
Philadelphia, PA
First burial: 1879
The cemetery was
originally a part of the
New York State
Soldiers and Sailors
Home, which was
established in 1877
Zone Dfb
Humid continental
This region is
characterized as a
humid climate with
severe winter, no dry
season, and a warm

Table 4. Cemeteries chosen for this study, assigned to a typical climatic zone.

Based on climatic and geographic distribution, five cemeteries were chosen for the study (see Table 4.) They include San Francisco National Cemetery, Santa Fe National Cemetery, Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery, Alexandria National Cemetery, and Bath National Cemetery.

Kˆppen Climate Classification System, see http://www.blueplanetbiomes.org/climate.htm, and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Koppen_climate_classification.

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One Response to Comparative Study of Commercially Available Cleaners for Use on Federally-Issued Headstones

  1. Nancy Scheer says:

    June 22, 2010

    I am interested in knowing if anyone has done any investigation into the affect of wet grass & weeds, thrown by lawn mowers onto tombstones?
    Does this cause some of the biological growths we see on tombstones?
    I see this often in cemeteries particularily when the grass has been cut early in the morning while it is still wet.

    Is there any data & results showing a “diluted solution of ammonia” for cleaning tombstones? I believe I read where it is not very effective on biological growth, but is it a recommended product for general cleaning of headstones?

    When using D2 do the rules apply that say only clean tombstones once every 10+ yrs? Where did this rule come from? I just read it on one of the National Preservations of tombstones sites. Is there data to back this rule?

    Has there been any conclusion to the National Cemetery Headstone Cleaning Project and if so where can I find the results?

    Thank you for any consideration you give to these questions.

    Nancy Scheer
    (a volunteer tombstone cleaner in Missouri)

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