Recently Dr. Mark Seeley, Department of Soil, Water, and Climate at the University of Minnesota spoke on the topic, “Adapting to Climate Change in Minnesota”. Dr. Seeley has been at the University since 1978, is heard on Minnesota Public Radio (MPR), and has authored a newsletter Minnesota Weather Talk, since 1992. Mark also writes WeatherTalk, a weather blog.
Dr. Seeley began with a few facts regarding extreme weather conditions on this day in history for Minnesota:
- On Ground Hog Day, 1996 Tower, MN recorded the coldest Ground Hog Day in U.S. history, -600!
- February 2, 1997, it was 660 in Wheaton, MN (Traverse Co.)
- February 2, 1915, Caledonia, MN (Houston Co.) received 20” of snow
- February 2 – February 3, 1947, Crookston, MN (Polk Co.) recorded a dust storm
Dr. Seeley participates in CAP, Climate Adaptation Partnership, a group of professionals from a variety of fields, horticulturalists, climatologists, architects who share information and experiences in their fields about weather and changing climates.
Basic drivers and perceptions of climate:
- Some climate changes are explained by earth, sun, ocean currents, volcanic eruptions, and jet streams
- Land use and landscape changes (urbanization, drainage changes, irrigation) have an effect on climate
- Anthropogenic emissions (greenhouse gases) affect climate
- Perceptions of climate change are built into the design and management of our infrastructure (i.e. the energy grid) and management of our natural resources
- 2014, on a global basis, was the warmest year since record keeping began in 1880; Minnesota experienced its 22nd coldest year in 2014 (from 1885-2014)
Climate change disparities/fingerprinting
- Warmer temperatures in winter – higher minimum temperatures
- Increasing dew points – affects home gardeners as more moisture affects plant respiration
- Minnesota has increasing average mean annual temperatures and frost free periods are expanding – increased by 10+ days from 1900 – 2002
- Urban heat island is spreading into what were previously rural/farm areas
- Plant hardiness zones were changed, Zones 3 & 4 showing more plant adaptability and Zone 5 has crept into the Twin Cities
Changes in Minnesota climate statistics
- Until 1983, no 800 dew point had been recorded in Minnesota; in 2012, Minnesota had 248 hours of 700 + dew points which inflates the heat index
- In July 2011, Moorhead had a 1340 heat index, a North American record
- Precipitation normal have increased 20% in the Twin Cities
- More precipitation is coming in intense thunderstorms
Changes in extremes
- Drought disasters and flood disasters were seen in the same counties in 2012
- Days with severe weather parameters increasing (previously 70-80 such days in OK and KS, now seen in IA, MN)
- In 2010, Minnesota recorded the most tornadoes of any state in the nation; 48 tornadoes were recorded on June 17, 2010
Consequences of climate change
- Adjustments needed to storm sewer systems, irrigation, drainage, runoff, sediment, and shoreline management
- Fisheries management has changed (water warming, changes winter ice cover/depth)
- Public health is changing (allergies/molds, high heat index effect on population, especially elderly, MS and COPD patients may have special needs due to the changes in climate
- Flood potential is changing and affecting different areas
- Changes in biological organisms (life cycles of pathogens, pests, microbes change with temperature/precipitation)
- Longer growing seasons/zone changes
- Insurance premiums increasing due to increased storm activity
- Increased frequency of heat advisories and warnings
Dr. Seeley’s summary and closing thoughts:
- Landscape and atmospheric changes drive most climate change; in response to a brief discussion, he indicated deforestation may cause localized changes.
- Minnesota weather data is obtained from 1502 weather observers throughout the state.
- 8,923 records were broken in 10 years in Minnesota (highs, lows, precipitation totals, warnings, etc.).
Dr. Seeley may be contacted at email@example.com.