Michigan 2050 Forecast

This is Dr. Emily Schoerning with AR, and I’d like to say hello to all our friends in Michigan.  Now, Michigan has gotten some press lately as a climate haven, this state is being promoted as a potential destination for folks on the coasts and the gulf and the drying parts of the west, folks who want a place to live that will be a little less extreme, have a life in 2050 more like the quality of life we have today. 

As we go through the forecast today, you’ll be able to get an idea of what we expect Michigan to be like in 2050.  Honestly, the outlook is pretty good, but I don’t know that I think it’s particularly better than, say, upstate and inland New York or Wisconsin.  There are also the spotlighted mountain areas we’ve looked at so far in the east and in the west that have good climate stability and tolerable water outlooks.  And that’s just the places we’ve look at so far on the channel, there will be more good places we discover. 


Let’s get started.  In Michigan, we are looking at a long-term forecast for increased precipitation, specifically in the winter and spring.  And as the winter becomes more mild in many parts of the state, as we’ll see in a little bit, we should expect a greater proportion of winter precipitation to fall as rain.        

This trend towards more precipitation early in the year, it’s already having a real impact on Michigan.  From an agricultural perspective, you have fewer good planting opportunities with that sort of a weather pattern, and with the changes to the winter/spring transition, you can have a lot of problems for your flowering trees, your fruit trees.  There’s a real tragedy, it’s painful to see an orchard that was hit by an ice storm at the wrong time, the trees hurt, the year’s crop ruined in a day.  There’s a lot of innovation in agriculture right now, and Michigan is a major leader, particularly when it comes to bringing fruit trees through these changes to the climate.  So, there are challenges with these precipitation changes, and there is hope.

From a housing perspective, a more urban perspective, the precipitation trend is already causing substantial flooding.  You might have seen in the news, Detroit’s major highways have been flooding in 2021, really significant infrastructure impacts.  There’s going to be a real need to make more space for the water.  And in many areas, in Michigan as well as in the greater Midwest, cities are responding to these drainage needs with green infrastructure, which can be kind of a fancy word for wetlands restoration.       

Many wetlands have been destroyed, all across the region, and there’s a real collective realization that we’ve made a mistake.  That we need more green space, that we need more water space.  Many cities and towns are working on restoration projects.  And it’s very wise, when doing these types of projects, to consult with the local tribal nations, get more information about the ecological history of the area.  I’m going to show you this map of ceded territory, and much of it is recently ceded, about a hundred and fifty years ago, and much of it is still very much inhabited and cared for by people who have managed to hold on to their identity.  The tribal nations are widely acknowledged in the scientific community to have information and practices that are a crucial part of the solution, when we talk about the long term care and wellbeing of this land.

Now, we’ve been talking about water for a while, let’s look at temperatures.  First we’ll talk about summer heat:  HEAT Much warmer summer, although still fairly cool in the UP.  

And now let’s take a minute, look into the plant hardiness zones, the projected winter lows.  HARDI Not a good snow forecast in the winter, substantially milder winters.  You might want to look at this, you can see this is going to be a related climactic zone with New York state, even, even stronger connection in the future than it is now.  If you’re a person in New York thinking of a place to go, Michigan might be a good destination for you.  There are some cultural similarities, and it’ll look familiar.  It won’t feel so unfamiliar. 

I think many people in Michigan would be very concerned about these changes- there are a lot of changes to process.  The character of the place will feel different, substantially warmer, and kinda swampier.  There will be a need to set more areas aside for wetlands, substantially more drainage work.  And there will be changes in the forests.  The forests will look and feel different.  For a place that cares very much about trees, about tree agriculture, this outlook is serious and should push Michigan towards action. 

But, let’s not let the size of the changes get bigger in our heads than they will feel in our bodies.  There will be forests.  There will be fruit trees.  The UP will still have cooler summers, you can still go have fun at the lakes.  There are important things that will stay the same, that will feel about the same.  This will remain very much a place where people will want to live.  When you think about Michigan, this could be your climate haven. 

But if you’re in a place that’s looking at a particularly rough outlook, and you are thinking about moving, you need to ask yourself some questions.  Don’t make a reactive choice.  Because there is no perfect place, there is no safest place.  There are going to be changes everywhere, and it’s a matter of finding the place with risks you can tolerate, a place you’ll want to live in even with the risks.  You need to be looking beyond the climate, look at the culture of the place.  Take a trip there and check it out, eat the food there, go to a grocery store, a hardware store, visit a library.  Get a feel for what life would feel like. 

There’s no one answer for what makes a climate haven.  These forecasts, the science, can’t give you all the information you need about where you ought to go.  But Michigan, this state is definitely on the list of places to check out, see if it might be the right fit for you.

This is Dr. Schoerning with AR, signing out.  Please like and subscribe, help get the message out there.  There is hope.  We can prepare for what’s coming.  Let’s get ready.