Ohio 2050 Forecast

Hi, this is Dr. Emily Schoerning, bringing you Ohio’s 2050 climate forecast.  We’re going to do a deep dive here that builds on the Midwest regional forecast, giving you local information on the projections the feds are using to make plans.  These include Ohio’s future air and water quality, your risk level for the fatal heat waves that are likely to impact the Midwest, and your state’s future seasonality.  These changes are anticipated to cause major impacts on your state’s forests, bringing serious danger of wildfire to Ohio.  But the work Ohio is putting in is making a difference.  We’ll also talk about the opportunities the projected changes present.

Right now, Ohio has some serious problems with water quality.  In 2014 in Toledo, Ohio, half a million people were warned to avoid drinking the water due to toxins overwhelming a water treatment plant in Lake Erie’s western basin as a result of a harmful bloom.  Lake Erie is vulnerable to change, it’s changing faster than many of the great lakes.  It’s shallower, right?  That means it can change faster both in bad ways, and in good ways.  Let’s look at the trends (pg 903).

So not only do we see this warming, which means we have a serious potential for those algal blooms to increase, but there are additional concerns that Ohio is facing a potential for increased flooding.  Everyone in the Midwest knows that the weather is getting more intense.  We are getting more and more of those heavy rains, and that trend is going to continue.  The whole Great Lakes area is likely to see net increases in precipitation, and so we’re going to get more outflow, more river flooding, and Ohio is going to face major impacts there.

            But, there is a fairly low tech fix for this Page 901, wetlands restoration- and it’s really helping.  By restoring more green space, giving the water places to go, it helps clean the water, it helps reduce flooding, and in a future where there’s a lot of that deluge type rain, ample space for wetlands is going to be even more crucial than it is now. 

            It’s potentially helpful from a commercial perspective, too.  Lake Erie has one of the more valuable freshwater fisheries in the world.  As we improve the wetlands, we improve the lake, we improve the fishery.  Wetlands restoration is not just a fix, it’s a growth opportunity.

Talking for a minute about air quality, Page 906, air quality is a broader projected problem in Ohio than other midwestern states.  It’s not a top-level concern.  The ozone issues are significant, but we’re not talking about, like, California-level air quality issues here.  However, I want to point out that ozone is not your only future air-quality concern.  I mentioned the potential for wildfire in the intro, by 2050 you’re probably looking at both ozone and smoke, smoke particulates, as air quality concerns in the state, beyond other Midwestern states.  So if you have family members with lung and heart issues, this is an issue to think about, and if you have family members who have experience in the air-quality industry, this is a state with growth opportunities for that industry.  If you’re thinking about career and investments, home air quality control is going to be in demand in all of the states with an emerging wildfire outlook.

Let’s get into the heat, we’ll start talking about summer heat.  In terms of heat waves, which are one of the Midwest’s biggest projected regional threats, I would be concerned for any part of the state that currently sees typical summer highs around the upper 80s or low 90s.  I know that can be true of Cincinnati, for certain.  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 as you edge above 100, even towards 105, you can be talking about potentially fatal heat for people and livestock.  And you don’t have to be scared about that, you have to get ready.  You need a stable power grid, safe community spaces, and an awareness that underground spaces can be cool enough to save your life in a pinch, until you can get yourself in a better situation. 

A mentality of preparation over fear is key.  But that doesn’t mean you should ignore a sense of concern, and I do feel a sense of concern here.  For Ohio, we’re talking about these heatwaves in the context of an unusual heatup.  Let’s look at the map.

HEAT- unusually high heatup, amongst the most extreme in the Midwest.  Down by Cincinnati, one month of summer temp increases, rest of the state, 2-3 months of additional days over 86.  Now, that’s a very high power burden when you think of the increased cooling costs.  And it’s a big strain on your plant communities.  Especially with the increase in plant hardiness zone, you should expect this to lead to major landscape changes, larger than in other Midwest states.

Because of this tremendous increase in typical summer heat duration, I’m more concerned about potentially fatal heat emergencies in Ohio than I might be for other states with current summer highs in the 80s.  Ohio, I think, is looking at a bigger burden on infrastructure that’s less prepared for these types of summers than other Midwestern states.  There’s something about the heat wave projections and the USDA heat map that really, they combine to make me worry about grid failure.

Ohio used to be a major contributor to emissions, I think the state peaked at #4 in the nation in terms of emissions per capita.  But the state is doing a lot of work on the grid, converting away from coal, and now they are on track for solar to overtake coal in the next couple of years.  So that grid tuneup is happening.  There’s a serious challenge here, but it’s not like the state isn’t working on it.  When we face a challenge like this, it’s good to recognize the areas of concern and the reasons for optimism.  I think Ohio can pull it off, if we get to work now.

Let’s look at the winter.  HARDI- 6 to 6/7, high variability.  You’ll want to check out the tool yourself, look at right where you are.  Most of the densely populated areas will be transitioning to 7.

This climate to which Ohio is transitioning, it’s really a more traditionally southern than a Midwestern climate.  Your best modern comparison to this projected climate might be the northern side of Atlanta, up around Rome, Georgia.  With a change that big, there are projected major issues for your forest industries.  That central hardwood band, it’s going to be changing a fair bit, and the changes will be about the most pronounced in Ohio.  The forests in southeastern Ohio, very sadly including the Wayne National Forest, are at high risk for mass tree death.

Those forests are looking at 2 month summer increases, and substantially milder winters.  That can just be too much strain.  And if they die, the wildfire danger is evident.  If you live in an area up close to the forests, you should learn from our countrymen in the West- there is a lot we can do to protect ourselves from wildfires in our homes by creating space between homes and trees, making landscaping choices that don’t add fuel to fires, and, if you need to leave your home, make sure it’s well sealed.  Most homes that burn, they burn from the inside, from embers that get into the home.

So, Ohio, you’ve got some real challenges ahead.  This is a more challenging outlook than many Midwestern states.  You’re talking about a challenge level that is closer to what we see in the Southeast and the Southwest.  But, you do have some strengths on your side.  No shortage of water, and you’re working with the most engineerable of the Great Lakes.  Much easier to get your water quality issue under control than for other ample water states.  You need a big infrastructure investment, but you are working on it. 

And, you have big infrastructure.  This is a big state, high population state, with big cities and an ability to continue to grow.  That investment in the grid, that’s going to give this state continued growth potential.  There are several areas in the US where people are likely going to need to move, find somewhere else to live.  The hot spots for this are going to be driven by water.  Too much water on the gulf coast and parts of the eastern seaboard from about Virginia to Massachusetts- we’ve got sea level rise issues that will put on some real pressure there.  And not enough water in the Southwest.  Water allotments are already being severely cut throughout the Southwest, and it’s getting worse.

We’ve identified some real challenges in this forecast, but those are in many cases also growth opportunities.  You can be a part of the solution to these challenges.  That’s how we can make the best possible future for Ohio.

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.