Climate Change: What Experts Expect for the Upper Midwest

I’m hosting far-flung family from Seattle, Houston and Albany this week, so I’m going to post a link today to an article I wrote for the July/August issue of The Organic Broadcaster

Our dear and dreadful sun (check photo credit below)

Our dear and dreadful sun (photo credit jalalspages' Flickr)

It begins:

We’ve all read the headlines trumpeting the destructive potential of global warming, filled with phrases like melting ice caps, rising sea levels, and devastating tropical storms.  But what is this going to mean to those of us farming in the Midwest over the coming decades, and what can we do now to meet these challenges?

The Wisconsin Initiative on Climate Change Impacts (WICCI), completed a 9-part seminar series in June 2009 titled “Bracing for Impact.” The University of Wisconsin, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and other state agencies and institutions have pooled resources to present cutting-edge climate predictions. Their goal:  to develop practical information that can guide all decision makers from government organizations to individuals.

The WICCI study focuses on Wisconsin, and while Dr. Christopher Kucharik, Assistant Professor of Agronomy at UW-Madison, is not familiar with any similar state projects elsewhere in the Midwest, he notes that WICCI’s findings can be applied across state lines, particularly in Minnesota, Iowa, Michigan and parts of Illinois.

The Timeframe of Global Climate Change
WICCI researchers believe that climate change has already begun.  Dr. Michael Notaro, Associate Scientist in the Center for Climatic Research at the UW Gaylord Nelson Institute of Environmental Study, noted that the growing season is now two weeks longer than it was just 20 years ago.  Plant hardiness zones are marching northward.  “Between 1990 and 2006, zone 3 has gone from Wisconsin, and zone 5 has moved in,” he said.

Jack Williams of the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies put the timeframe into perspective.  “You see curves of temperature rising over the century, and it seems pretty abstract, but it’s happening right here and right now.  We are in the beginning of a ramp up, and things will be happening faster and faster.  My three-year-old, Eliza, may see temperatures increase from 3.2 to 6.8 °F in her life time.  That is more than temperatures have changed in the past 22,000 years since the last glacier.”

Read the whole article by clicking  here .

My next post on Friday will be a photo essay on what is currently blooming in our prairie.


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