Minnesota 2050 Forecast

This is Dr. Emily Schoerning with AR, and I’d like to say hello to all our friends in Minnesota.  Minnesota, you are looking at a pretty high level of change.  But there are good parts here, there is good news and there are serious opportunities coming up for Minnesota.  We gotta talk about some emerging threats, some big challenges.  The future for Minnesota is going to be very different from the past.  But it doesn’t have to be a bad future.  I know a lot of people have been waiting on this forecast, so let’s get into this. 

First, let’s talk about heat waves.  You might know that potentially deadly heatwaves are a big threat in the forecast for the Midwest.  Here’s the good news- that’s no threat for you, Minnesota.  The federal government is projecting that by 2050, the once-a-decade type heatwaves, disaster heatwaves, will be 13 degrees over current highs and last for 5 days.  So with your current highs in the low 80s towards the southern edge of the state and the 70s towards the northern edge, you are likely to stay well and safely below a hundred degrees during these projected big heat waves.  This is very good news- that’s an emerging threat for many of the states in our Midwestern region, but you, Minnesota, look to be safe.

That doesn’t mean you aren’t facing a substantial summer heatup.  Let’s take a look over on our USDA heat map. We’re going to take a big picture view first.  You can see this tongue of heat just explodes through the heart of the country, creating dramatically different summers in Nebraska and South Dakota, huge changes.  And you’re off to the eastern edge of this big heatup.  Your summers are going to become much more like Iowa’s today, in all but the northeastern third of the state, you are looking at about three months of days over 86.  Very big change in the southern part of the state 

Up in that northeastern third, let’s look more closely at the change.  You’ve got such unique and beautiful woods up there, those great northern forests.  I spent a lot of summers up there by Ely as a girl, where you start really seeing that reindeer-moss carpeted forest, those true northern plants.  You can see that we’re looking at maybe two more warm weeks in the summer up in the north there.  I sure hope that will be few enough to save those woods.  Because all you have to do is walk in them to see how they need the cool.  Let’s look at what’ll happen to the winter cold, that’s also very important for those trees.

You can see right away here on the USDA plant hardiness zone map that we’ve got big retreat here, big retreat of our contemporary zone 3, retreat of zone 4, some incursion of zone 5. 

Pretty good lineup of our conserved zone 3 and those 2 week summer advances around Lake of the Woods.  So, God willing, we have some potential for forest conservation there.  But in these areas where we see the zone shift from 3 to 4, and we’ve got more than 2 weeks of increased summer heat, I would be very concerned about the potential for the trees to die.  For the forests to die, for mass tree death.  That area to the south there, between Leech Lake and Brainerd, I’d worry about tree death there, and accompanying wildfire risks. 

I’m going to talk more about wildfire in a minute, but I feel the need to get myself onto a more positive note here.  Let’s take just a second and talk through what these changes mean for some of your cities.

Minneapolis and St Paul, they’re going to be much more like Des Moines is today by 2050.  That’s still got a cold winter, but it’s a little easier for people to adjust to a zone 5 winter than a zone 4 winter.  And your summers will also be much like Des Moines is today.  Des Moines is a growing city right now, this is a climate people find fairly desirable, and it will be a rarer climate by midcentury.  I would anticipate significant growth opportunities for the twin cities.  And if you really want a place that’s going to be changing in the next thirty years, check out Duluth.  Anyone who really loves the cool summer, they’re going to want a place in Duluth.  One of the tiny handful of developed cities in America that will still have a cool summer.  The winters are going to become a lot milder, too.  Full zone shift.  So if you prefer living in a city, and you have some flexibility, I’d get into Minnesota now.  Very good urban outlook.

Okay, back to wildfire and forests.  I wanted to point out there are some major real estate opportunities in Minnesota, I know plenty of you watching want to know about that, but you can probably tell I care about those forests.  We know they’re already facing challenges.  We’ve seen the wildfires start, that was that big fire in the boundary waters last summer, in 2021.  And we can see on the projected maps that, although the boundary waters area won’t be as vulnerable as the northern central forest we just highlighted, it will become more vulnerable to tree death and to fire as we approach midcentury.

These forests, we’ll need to experiment with new types of active management.  You will want to check out the tree atlas to see what kinds of new species the forest service recommends moving in.  Our northern forests are well studied, and we have many tribal nations in the area with valuable knowledge for how to care for them.  There is hope that we can preserve some of the forest much as it is, particularly in that climate conservation zone we’ve highlighted in the northern center of the border.  And we need to work together to help care for the forests that will be threatened by these changes, and will need supportive planting of new species.  Zone 4 forest is going to be increasingly rare and precious.  Minnesota will have the majority of the suitable zone 4 forest habitat.  Forestry work is going to be very important for the future of the state.  Both for the benefit of the forests themselves, and all their living things, and for human needs.  If we’re going to have wood to harvest, you can see yourself how that northern hardwood habitat is shrinking.

On the topic of your wonderful natural resources in Minnesota, let’s take a look at the Great Lakes 903.  You can see that there are trends towards ice loss in Lake Superior, already lost a couple of days of ice a year up there compared to historic trends.  But so far, no summer heating.  We can see that out in the middle of the lake there, we do have some pretty serious warming trends, and I want to talk about how that could impact the fisheries in the future.

I’m going to show you this important picture 889.

So right now, if we’re looking at staying on the RCP 4.5 pathway, which is the pathway we’re betting on, there’s a chance of keeping the window open for those fish.  We saw, we’re looking at a couple more weeks of heat up north, not a couple more months.  But meeting the emissions targets of the RCP 4.5 pathway is critical to keeping that oxygen window open, or we will lose those fisheries.  And I don’t need to tell you, those coldwater fish, not only are some of them just great sport fish, a big part of our cultural heritage, but they are good fish to eat.  They are commercially valuable fish.  And the Great Lakes, oh we’re so lucky.  They’re looking at substantially less change than the oceans.  We have the opportunity, those of us in the Midwest, to preserve much more of our culture, our food traditions, than many of our countrymen do who live near the sea.  We gotta stay on track, stay on RCP 4.5, and we can keep our fish.  Other people do not have the advantages we have on this front.

Here’s another fairly positive note, the projections for your air quality, Minnesota, are pretty nice.  906.  You can see that in the southern half of the Midwest, we expect a lot more ozone, with some increasingly serious public health impact.  But other than a minor increase in ozone for the Twin Cities, Minnesota looks to have potential to maintain beautifully clean air. 

So, let’s take a minute.  This is a lot of information.  The changes for Minnesota are really big, it’s going to feel quite different in almost all of the state by mid-century.  There’s a lot of hope, hope we can preserve some of those special northern forests, those moss-carpeted forests, and hope we can preserve our coldwater fish.  Justifiable hope. 

There are many areas in Minnesota, however, where preservation of the current landscape will not be possible.  If you’re going to be successful, you’ll need to roll with the punches.  The changes are going to be substantial, but you’re in an area where the changes will in some areas make the land more agriculturally productive.  In some areas, the changes are very likely to increase your property values.  There will be more of a demand for your real estate.  The changes are big!  The changes, I can see why anyone would be scared, trying to take them in for the first time.  Those summer and winter maps, they freaked me out when I first saw them, because the changes are so big.

But, if you can get on top of them, these changes can be good for you.  When I see opportunities for change, they often are opportunities that are going to require being pretty quick, not everyone’s going to have time to pull a plan together.  In Minnesota, I think the change opportunities will be easier for a typical person to grab hold of.  I think we’ll have pretty clear change models for both agriculture and in the cities. 

There’s a lot of work to do.  We desperately need forestry, loving forestry, in the north, to help our great forest survive these changes.  But man.  If I’ve seen one state so far where there are fortunes to be made, a future of prosperity for your normal person.  A normal person, just a person who is willing to work hard, be a good member of their community, a person who doesn’t have an appetite for a super high level of risk. 

If I were to call the best state for an average person to make their best bet, from all I’ve learned so far, I’d call it here.  I think Minnesota has a tremendous potential, just a huge upwelling of opportunity.  And you all are very resilient in Minnesota, good cultural resilience, and you already have a lot of infrastructure and practices in place to help you resist extreme storms, good weather resilience.  You’re holding a strong hand, and I’m rooting for you.  And if you want my advice- whatever property you own up there that you can hold, hold it!

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.