Wisconsin 2050 Forecast Script

This is Dr. Emily Schoerning with AR, and I’d like to say hello to all our friends in Wisconsin.  This is the first of our detailed Midwestern state-level forecasts.  Now, I want to show you all the picture the federal government has used to highlight our region.  882 It is this busted-ass barn.  There’s a lot more than that going on in the Midwest, and I’m looking forward to sharing some detailed, quality information about this resilient region. 

Now, I’m going to quote from the report here, we’re gonna rip off the bandaid, talk about the worst thing in the projections: the increased heat.

Warm-season temperatures are projected to increase more in the Midwest than any other region of the United States.  By the middle of this century (2036–2065), 1 year out of 10 is projected to have a 5-day period that is an average of 13°F warmer than a comparable period at the end of last century (1976–2005).54

Okay, so, Wisconsin, let’s talk about this for you.  Because I think a normal person is going to hear that quote and maybe not want to solve that equation in their head their first time hearing it.  First, we’re gonna look at the USDA heat map, see what your warmer summer will look like, talk about what it will feel like:

Heat map- areas of traditional cool summer shrinking dramatically, getting more like in the Iowa/Illinois plains states belt- kinda sweaty summers.  Decent cool summer conservation around Green Bay- Door county peninsula will stay cool in the summer, through less cool than it does now.  So, it’ll be hotter, but the heat in a typical summer will be heat that is well within your experience as a person whose been around the region a little.  If you’ve ever been down by Chicago, if you’ve ever been to the Iowa State Fair, you are that kind of summer heat is gross but you can still have fun. 

So that’s typical heat.  But let’s take a minute, think back to the quote, and talk about those heat waves.  One year in ten, big heat wave predicted.  13 degrees beyond your 1990s highs, that’s big!  In Iowa, where I am, you’re definitely talking about potential heatwaves around 104, 105.  But in Wisconsin, your average summer highs are much lower than in many parts of the Midwest.  Most of your cities, you’re looking at average summer highs today in the high seventies and low eighties.  Add 13, that means your heat waves will by and large stay well below 100 degrees.  Unless that heat wave hits at just the wrong time, with super high humidity, you’re probably talking about staying safely below truly dangerous heat, heat that would be fatal for unprotected people.

Now, you may be saying that’s a low bar, Wisconsin won’t be looking at heat that could kill you.  Wowee.  I’m sorry to say, there are states in the Midwest and across the Southeast that could be facing potentially quite deadly heatwaves by 2050.  I feel like it’s a big positive for a state, not to need to prepare for a new category of natural disaster.

That heat is meaningful, though, we can’t get around that.  You’re looking at around a 30 percent increase in your vapor pressure deficit in the state, that’s going to put water stress on plants throughout the state.  Plants are going to need more water.  And let’s look at how hardiness zones are projected to shift.

Hardi map- right now, 3-4-5, shifting to 4-5-6.  The Door county peninsula is going to shift up.

Now, talking about these impacts on plants, I want to show you this nice image of Wisconsin, showing how plants are not moving fast enough.  898.  If we want to improve the richness of our northern part of the state, keep those zone 4 plants in play, you’re going to want to help them move.  But that’s a big question, right?  What plants should we move?  Come and check this out.

You might have seen me use the USDA tree atlas before, this time we’re going to look at these regional guides.  Check it out- new species, and infill species!  You can visualize each species on the tree atlas, and now you’re guided as to what new species you might want to introduce that will be gaining territory, moving north. 

This plant stuff isn’t just a land stewardship exercise to keep the forests healthy and pleasant.  Active forestry will help us decrease the potential for wildfires.  I imagine many of you watching remember the wildfires in Minnesota in 2021, and are wary of how this new threat may impact our northern forests.  We’re going to need to be thoughtful and critical in our land management in the Midwest, really work that forest infill to help us avoid mass tree death and wildfire.  As we talk about this active land management, it’s worth noting that the federal government, the USDA, and every reasonable person would also advise seeking the advice of and listening to the local Tribal nations, such as the Ojibwe, who have been scientifically recognized as the best land managers for this land.  This tree atlas here, it’s great for trees, but you might be wondering, where are the shrubs?  What should we do about them?  That’s the kind of crucial ecosystem knowledge that the scientific community recognizes is much better organized and understood by local tribes.

Now, as we’re building up our picture of what’s changing, let’s talk about the Great lakes.  They are such a unique feature, they’re a big part of what gives North America a decent climate outlook, and they are of course of concern to Wisconsin.  You can see there’s 903 some current decrease in ice extent, but- no surface temperature variation.  Lake Michigan is seeing very modest changes compared to some of the lakes.  You can see that Lake Superior has some pretty dramatic trends.

 Lake Michigan is looking pretty good, pretty stable.  I’m going to go over some information now from the University of Wisconsin, 899 shows current temperature behavior of the Great Lakes- and this is from University of Wisconsin.  We’re going to highlight the risk to the coldwater fish populations.  If we get warmer surface waters during the ice free period, we can lose our coldwater fish, and it could happen fast.  So as we think of keeping emissions low, minimizing our summer heatup, it’s worth thinking about this entire class of fish, those coldwater fish are really great sportfish and eating fish.  We could lose them fast.  And we don’t have to.  Hunters and fishermen have done so much to preserve the natural beauty of the Midwest, so much land preserved.  Now we’ve got another challenge, getting emissions down, and the fishing community ought to know about how profoundly this could impact us.

There’s one more piece of info I want to show you, just because it’s nice news.  The Midwest has some problems with air quality, I want you to see that in the Midwest, Wisconsin has a very nice relative air quality outlook.  Nice to know, especially if you’ve got anyone in your family with lung concerns.  906 nice air quality projections

So, let’s bring all these threads together.  Wisconsin, I think you are looking good.  You might not think so, the size of the heat changes are kinda startling, but take a look around the country.  In northern Wisconsin, you will preserving a pretty nice cool summer, too, a pretty traditional summer.  There are going to be changes to the state related to this significant warming trend, changes to the plant communities, maybe changes to what you want to grow, but most of these changes, even though they’re big, they don’t put you into dangerous territory.  The dairy industry is big in Wisconsin, so when we talk about heat waves that impact large mammals, we gotta think about the cows.  Being able to maintain traditional dairy breeds, not needing to think about switching towards heat tolerant cattle like we’ll be wise to in other parts of the region, it’s a big deal.  There’s a lot you’re going to be able to keep the same under this forecast.  Green Bay and up by Superior, those Duluth suburbs, they have nice cool summer conservation, I think those cities have big growth potential.  Good air quality, too, makes a big difference in a city.  And, let’s think strategically.  The coasts are looking at real rough rides.  Greater Chicagoland extends well up into Wisconsin, and greater Chicagoland has a LOT of potential as just the major intact urban area as we move towards midcentury. 

Wisconsin is well-positioned as we move into the future.  You want to get ready?  Think about heat and associated changes in plant communities, look out for fire danger depending on how the northern forests respond to the changes, and prepare for growth.

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.