Report: More weather extremes coming to Midwest

CREATED May 6, 2014

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MILWAUKEE – If you think you’ve seen more weather extremes lately, you’re right.  A report released today shows the weather is getting worse with more rain, more flooding and hotter summers in our future. 

Every four years, the United States Congress requires an assessment of the most up-to-date research on climate change and how it will impact different regions of the United States.  More than 300 researchers and scientists compile the National Climate Assessment, discussing what is currently happening and what to expect in the future of the Earth’s climate.  The latest report anticipates more extremes for those living in the Midwest.

The amount of extreme rainfall and heavy precipitation events has increased by nearly 40% in the last 50 years.  This has lead to an increase in flooding events like the Brew City Floods in 2010 and will cause erosion, declining water quality and have a negative impact on infrastructure.

The average temperature of the Midwest and the nation as a whole has increase 1.5 degrees since record keeping began, but more than 80% of that increase has happened in the last 35 years.  While 1.5 degrees may seem small, tat increase is expected to contribute to ice selves melting and sea levels rising a foot or more by the end of the century.

If this upward trend continues, the report expects more heat waves that will last longer and have hotter temperatures and higher humidity.  So summers like 2012, when Milwaukee saw 19 days climb above 90 degrees, will become more normal.  Leaving many thankful for Lake Michigan’s cooled air.  But the report states that the Great Lakes will continue to see warmer water temperatures which will lead to an increase in harmful algae, invasive species and declining beach health.

Local farmers will see a temporary gain in the next few decades since rising carbon dioxide levels will increase crop yields and lengthen the growing season but extreme weather events will take away most positive impacts, especially with longer and more intense droughts expected across the rest of the country.

The report states that the changes of the last 50 years are primarily due to human activities like auto emissions and factories burning fossil fuels.

The report says that the climate change forecast will continue along this path if humans don’t change, they stress cutting carbon pollution by investing in clean energy.  Wisconsin is making some progress on that front, over the last five years alone the state has added 230 renewable energy projects that help contribute to power more than 10,000 homes and businesses.  This, in addition to residents and businesses’ efforts, is helping meet the statewide goal of 10% of the state’s electricity being generated by renewable energy by 2015.

And while this past winter was one of the coldest and tied for having the highest number of days with measurable snowfall, many may question the report.  But the important thing to keep in mind is that you have to have a broader view, one winter in one area is classified as “weather” while climate considers conditions prevailing over a broad area over a long period of time.