Climate Change Impacts
Minnesota • Wisconsin • Michigan • Iowa • Missouri• Illinois • Indiana • Ohio
The following is a compilation of regional climate change impacts in the Midwest pulled from the Third U.S. National Climate Assessment, Risky Business, and other sources. The Midwest has a population of 61 million people, produces over $2.6 trillion in regional GDP each year, and grows 65% of American corn and soybeans. This region will see severe effects from climate change, including record temperatures, extreme precipitation and storms, and changes to the Great Lakes.
Right Here, Right Now
- From 1900 to 2010, the average air temperature in the Midwest increased by over 1.5˚F. Between 1980 and 2010, the average temperature increased three times more rapidly than it did from 1900 to 2010.
- Over the last six decades, the frequency of major heat waves has increased in the Midwest.
- The regional average temperature is expected to rise by 3.8˚F by mid-century if emissions are substantially reduced and by 4.9˚F if emissions continue to grow, compared to regional temperatures from 1979-2000.
- Tree species will have to shift as much as 90 miles north to reach habitats with their pre-warming growth conditions.
- A study predicts that, by 2081-2100, heat wave-related mortality will cause an increase of between 166 and 2,217 excess deaths per year in Chicago alone.
- 95% of the current electricity infrastructure in the Midwest is susceptible to decreased efficiency from higher temperatures
- By the middle of the century, the energy demand for cooling in the Midwest is projected to increase by over 10 gigawatts and require more than $6 billion in infrastructure investments.
- Crop yields across the region are expected to decline by 19% by mid-century and 63% by the end of the century if no adjustments to emissions are made.
- Many valuable timber species like jack pine, aspen, red pine, and white pine, may be lost in this region due to shifts in climate.
Local Impacts and Recent Events
- In 2012, Wisconsin, Iowa, Missouri, Indiana, Minnesota, Illinois, and Ohio were all in the top ten states for record-breaking extreme heat, having broken or tied the most high-temperature records and had the largest disparities in the ratio between record high and record low temperatures.
- In 2012, a springtime freeze event decimated Michigan’s $60 million tart cherry crop in the industry’s worst year in recorded history. This followed another once-in-a-lifetime frost in 2002.
- In Michigan, more farmers reported using fungicides in 2014, as fungi move northward with warmer weather.
Extreme Precipitation and Storms
Right Here, Right Now
- Annual rainfall across the region increased by up to 20% during the past century, with most of the increase coming from more intense rainfalls.
- The Midwest is exceptionally vulnerable to floods due to its climate and geologic features.
- Shifting precipitations have reduced workable field days from April to mid-May by 3.8 days.
- Both the frequency and intensity of extreme precipitation are expected to increase across the region. Average precipitation is expected in also be more frequent and intense, but to a lesser degree.
- Increased storms are expected to lead to an increase of sewer overflows into Lake Michigan of 50% to 120% by 2100.
- Projected increases in winter and spring precipitation are likely to delay planting and crop establishment.
- The high volume of sewage runoff caused by increasingly intense rains is expected to result in tourism losses and infrastructure expenditures.
- Increased weather variability is expected to result in crop yield decreases of 15-20%, due to changes in soil water availability and temperature.
Local Impacts and Recent Events:
- In 2008, extreme floods caused 24 deaths and over $16 billion in damage across the Midwest, primarily in agricultural losses and property damage.
- The 2008 floods caused $5 to $6 billion in damages to Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and exceeded the one-in-500-year flood level by over five feet. That measures out to over $40,000 in damages per resident.
- In 2012, Ohio was hit by a derecho, causing widespread wind damage and knocking out power for one million people as temperatures rose into the triple digits.
- In February 2011, a blizzard with heavy snowfall and winds of 60-70 mph caused more than $1.8 billion in damage and 36 weather-related deaths in Chicago.
Changes to the Great Lakes
Right Here, Right Now
- Between 1968 and 2002, summer water surface temperatures increased by 5.2˚F in Lake Huron, 2.7˚F in Lake Ontario, and 4.5˚F in Lake Superior.
- The average annual maximum ice coverage from 2003-2013 decreased to 43%, down from an average of 52% during 1962-2013.
- Summer lake surface temperatures are projected to rise by as much as 7˚F by 2050 and 12.1˚F by 2100.
- Reduced ice cover increases shore vulnerability to erosion and flooding.
- Higher lake temperatures facilitate algal blooms that are detrimental to fish health, water quality, habitats, and the aesthetic quality of the waterbody. They can also heighten the impact of invasive species.
- Water levels in the Great Lakes are projected to drop 1.5-3 feet by 2030 and 1.5-8 feet by 2100.
- Reduced ice cover could lengthen the shipping season, but changes in lake levels could reduce the amount of cargo ships can carry to the Great Lakes ports.