Michigan 2050: Hot, wet, and no ice

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Picture Michigan in 2050. Marquette, in the Upper Peninsula, is a city that has rarely experienced a day above 90 degrees. It will likely see around two weeks of them by mid-century. Steamy Detroit, where temps regularly creep into the 90s (as they did six times in August) will likely see nearly a full month of additional 90-degree days.

That's according to predictions modeled by the Great Lakes Integrated Sciences and Assessments (GLISA), a branch of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Their aim is to develop usable climate information to aid in decision-making.

What else do scientists predict?

  • More dangerously hot days and heatwaves
  • A longer mosquito season, increasing risk of mosquito-borne diseases
  • More days of stagnant air, making air pollution worse and exacerbating asthma
  • Fewer days below 20 degrees
  • A shorter frost-free season
  • Declining ice coverage during winters on the Great Lakes, reducing opportunities for ice fishing
  • More days with heavy precipitation events
  • Warmer nighttime temperatures
  • Conditions favoring more algae blooms

The effects of planetary warming are already being felt across the state. Detroit and Alpena now experience 3 more days per year above 90 degrees on average than they did in 1970.

Intense precipitation in Metro Detroit this summer caused multiple bouts of devastating basement flooding as aging infrastructure met climate-era precipitation, prompting the Federal Emergency Management Association to issue a disaster declaration.

And as Michigan and the Great Lakes grow hotter and wetter, the American west grows hotter and drier, creating an obvious national disparity. At least one of those states — Arizona — is already planning to import water from out-of-state to meet its growing crisis.

Source: https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2021/08/24/climate/warmer-wetter-world.html

These changes aren't being felt evenly. The worst impacts of climate change are happening in the southern part of the state and in cities, where most of the state's low-income populations and people of color live. Heatwaves this summer prompted Michigan State Police to warn residents to take precautions to stay cool. In Detroit, the city opened cooling centers to help residents beat the heat in late August.

And experts predict massive casualties in Detroit should a severe heatwave combine with a power outage. Power outages are happening more frequently in some areas, and they're lasting longer, prompting Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel to put pressure on utilities and gather information on hardships faced by residents who experienced extended outages.

"As a state, we must put a heavier priority on examining our utility companies and how they adapt to the changing climate and needs of their millions of customers," Nessel said in a statement.

Is there any good news here?

Longer warm seasons may increase opportunities for some types of outdoor recreation. Longer growing seasons could be a boon to some types of agriculture.

And some say water-rich Michigan may become a "climate haven," especially in the north where impacts will be mildest. That could be a boon to a state that has consistently lost population in recent decades. Then again, as the vagaries of climate change manifest, even that may prove a false hope. What would it take to accommodate potential hordes of climate refugees?

So, you see, we have questions. And we know you do too.

How can Michiganders prepare for the inevitable changes coming our way, due to the 1.5C degree of warming that Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) scientists say is now locked in due to rising greenhouse gases?

How will climate change affect life for Michiganders in the decades to come? How will it impact our health, our housing, our economy, our agriculture, our natural areas, our economy, our Great Lakes, our cities, our infrastructure, our opportunities for outdoor recreation, our culture?

Addressing those questions is the aim of this newsletter. We're examining the climate crisis from one particular lens: the Michigan lens. We'll be looking at the science and the impacts, but also mitigation, adaptation, and solutions for resiliency. We'll look at dire predictions, yes, but also at what's happening right now in terms of impacts, policies, and action.

Whether you're a recent transplant, or you've lived here for a lifetime, you've probably come to love at least one tiny corner of this Mitten State — if not all of them. You love the crispness of the north woods in fall, swimming in Lake Michigan or the Detroit River in the summertime, snowmobiling or skiing in the snowy winter, the flush of spring wildflowers. You love strolling our downtowns, cities, neighborhoods, and local parks in four seasons.

So you, like us, care about how climate change will impact this particular corner of Planet Earth — our corner, here in Michigan. Please join us here by subscribing for free and sharing with a friend.

What questions do you have about climate change in Michigan? Please let us know by reaching out to me at nina@planetdetroit.org. NOTE: Please don't reply to this email, it will go into a digital netherworld, never to be seen again. We hope that changes soon!


Photo: Tiger Dams in Detroit's Jefferson Chalmers neighborhood were installed by the city in an attempt to protect proper. NOTE: Please don't reply to this email, it will go into a digital netherworld, never to be seen again. We hope that changes soon!

Planet Michigan on Bulletin is produced by Planet Detroit.


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