This is Dr. Emily Schoerning with AR, and I’d like to say hello to all our friends in Missouri. Lot of great land values in Missouri, and as I set out to research this forecast, I really didn’t have a lot of preconceived notions about what’s projected to change in this area. So let’s check it out.
HEAT- looks like another month of heat over 86 a year, which is not an insubstantial add, but all the big population centers have the potential to be spared a 2 month increase. If we look at the 8.5 scenario, we can see that these population centers would be well within a band of 2 months of additional summer heat, and even in the 4.5 we can see they’re sort of on the edge of that more extreme warming patterns. So getting emissions down, following our most-likely pathway towards moderate emissions reduction, is very important for the state’s future, particularly the middle of the state. Could have a good outlook, but it’s sensitive.
Now, that USDA map lets us look at projected typical summer heat, but we also need to talk about future heat waves. By 2050 in the Midwest, every decade is projected to have at least 1 big heat wave 13 degrees above current highs. So with your current highs in the high eighties and low nineties, you’re definitely looking at heat waves around 110, 115, and this part is important, lasting for 5 days. Now, this is potentially deadly heat for both humans and livestock, so just like in my neighboring home state of Iowa, which is unsurprisingly looking at similar projected heatwaves, part of building our resilience will be preparing for heat emergencies.
There are three things we should do in our part of the Midwest to prepare for these heat emergencies, which could cause substantial loss of life. One is work on our power infrastructure. A strong, diverse, localized power system is crucial for keeping the air on. The second is working on our communities. If your air goes out, if you don’t have air conditioning, you need places to go. Friends and family who can take you in, and community places like libraries and houses of worship. The third, in areas where underground shelters, like solid basements, are available, and I know that in parts of Missouri soil conditions don’t permit a lot of underground construction, so this may not apply to you, it’s good to remember that those underground shelters aren’t just good for protection in a tornado emergency, they can provide daytime shelter in a heat emergency. Do what you can to stay cool during the day, get to longer-term safety or fix the air at night.
I want to take a look at the impact of heat on crops. Let’s look at this, the feds actually have some modeling that is Missouri-specific here on page 890, and this is going to have some big implications.
I’m going to do a separate video soon talking about changing conditions for staple crops in the US, but you can see that Missouri is the state that marks the border for the future of soy in the US. South of Missouri, we’re going to have additional challenges in that nighttime temperatures will stay high enough to further reduce soy yields. Soy is important for Missouri right now, but this is projected to become a marginal area for the crop, particularly in Southern Missouri.
On the agricultural front, we’re also looking at a 20-30 percent change in our vapor deficit in the Missouri by 2050, so plants are going to need substantially more water. Not a big surprise they’ll need more water in those hotter conditions, right? Everything will. So let’s talk about the weather. We’re not looking at a big change in total precipitation in this area, but it’s going to keep falling in these crazy storms, the weather will continue to become more extreme. We’re talking about deluge and drought patterns, as well as a lot of those big wind events. With the instability in the rain, with it being harder to rely on rain to water crops, let’s take a look at where our water comes from in Missouri.
Now, I found this quite interesting to learn about, and I’m going to share this link from the DNR
There is just huge variability in where your water comes from in Missouri. Kansas City and St. Louis, they’re both on surface water from their rivers, which is great, because those urban areas can really drain an aquifer. And throughout the state, you have a bunch of different aquifers, with a lot of variety in baseline water quality and what sort of output you might expect from a well, with a general trend of more trouble accessing groundwater in the north. Once you get south of Jefferson City, south of the river, you’re generally speaking looking at fairly accessible and plentiful groundwater.
There is a lot of good news regarding Missouri’s groundwater situation. For one thing, the state has a long history of monitoring groundwater levels, and has kept groundwater use sustainable. This is not a state where you’re looking at potentially running low on water, which is not true everywhere even in the Midwest. Huge positive for the state.
Your challenge won’t be water conservation, using less water. It’ll be water care. Right now, Missouri’s laws don’t do enough to protect the groundwater from pollution, and some of your aquifers are being polluted by agricultural runoff. Those nitrates, they can get into the water, and they cause a lot of problems with human reproduction. Women are often unable to bring a pregnancy to term if they drink water contaminated with that agricultural runoff, and it’s very sad, and you can’t smell, taste, or see that the water has anything wrong with it. So for a healthy future in Missouri, for healthy babies in Missouri, stepping up your game on protecting those aquifers is a big deal. You will probably want to be using them more for agriculture as a way to keep the water flowing during drought years. You’ve got a great opportunity to protect them now.
Looking at the winters, you are going to experience a substantial shift in plant hardiness zones, you’re looking at much milder winters. All of your population centers are projected to shift at least a full plant hardiness zone. That, combined with the stress of those warmer, longer summers, could be very stressful for mature trees. We have seen this happen in the west, where warming conditions in the summer and winter lead to mass tree death, and that can of course lead to wildfire. But there are ways we can prepare for those conditions and learn from the west. There has been a lot of success using controlled burns to manage fire-prone areas. And maintaining healthy margins between homes and forested areas, fire-prone areas, is a crucially important technique, as is making sure your home is well closed-up if you need to evacuate. Sounds silly, but in California they’ve learned that most homes that burn, it’s because embers get into the home and it burns from the inside. A well-closed home is much less likely to be lost.
So, let’s pull all this together. Big changes coming to Missouri, no joke there. The heat is going to get serious, and not just in heat wave years. Your typical summer will have a high around 102. That’s hot. It’s hot enough that you will get serious yield drops in many current crops, particularly in soy. But with those mild winters, that increased growing season? And your abundance of water? I pitch table crops for Iowa, but you, Missouri, are in an even sweeter spot for conversion to table crop production in the face of the coming changes. You could handle irrigation needs much more easily.
That’s an opportunity, but there are challenges, too. You are also looking at increased fire danger, and increased threats from severe weather. Building resilience is absolutely critical in the face of these coming changes. But you’ve got a lot of potential to do that in Missouri. In the face of these changes, I wouldn’t get out. I’d dig in.
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.