The Heat Is On — WICCI Details Climate Change for Wisconsin

If you live in Wisconsin, you can expect to be 4-9 degrees Fahrenheit warmer by 2050.

We know this because Wisconsin is home to an amazing organization – Wisconsin Initiative on Climate Change Impacts (WICCI).  ohadweb's-photostream

This power-packed nexus of know-how from the University of Wisconsin, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and other state agencies has enough scientific fire power to take aim at the data of the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and focus it on Wisconsin.  IPCC runs global computations so complex they take months to crunch, but their image of Wisconsin is blurry.  WICCI has focused it by factoring in more specific details about this state.

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WICCI ran a seminar series this spring called Bracing for Impact and I was there, sitting in the front row.  You can watch the whole series captured on webcam here. It motivated me to write an article for Organic Broadcaster about what climate change is going to mean to organic farmers in the Midwest.  (See my post  here )

Last week WICCI held a press conference to reveal their continuing efforts, and I was there in the front row again.  Few things seem more important than this.  Yes, I care about polar bears and coastal cities, but I live in Wisconsin, and it will be heating up as much as 9 DEGREES during the period my children are raising their children.  That’s about the same amount of change since the last Ice Age had us in its deep freeze.

Future models show a doubling of the number of very hot days where the temperature climbs past 90 degrees F in southern Wisconsin and a near tripling of very hot days in northern Wisconsin.

While Wisconsin is predicted to get hotter, it is even more getting less cold.  Over the last 60 years there has been a 10-30% reduction in the number of very cold days, and that trend will continue.  That means more rain and less snow in the winter.  Right now there is a 10% chance that what is falling out of the sky in February will be rain instead of snow.  By midcentury it will be a 30% chance.

More immediately, the same WICCI calculations are projecting much more the kind of rain that breaches dikes, closes Interstate highways for weeks and washes away houses.

(photo credit block.joe, Flickr)

This house sat beside Lake Delton before the flood. (photo credit block.joe, Flickr)

Scientists call these extreme precipitation events, and Wisconsin can expect to be hit with more and more of them winter and summer.  It’s already happening.  State precipitation records for Madison show that of the top 10 24-hour rain events from 1879 to the present, six have happened since 2000.

I recently asked Dan Vimont, a climate scientist I was interviewing, if he was worried.

He said no.

He said that when you are faced with uncertainty and you don’t have the tools to assess what could happen and how you can adapt – all you can do is worry.  That is why we do research, he said.

So, I keep reading, and listening and hoping and working.

Watching the weather over my own land.

---Watching the weather over my own land.

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Categories: Climate Change

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