Anjanette Riley was at last week’s Resilient Chicago workshop on climate trends and adaptive planning. She had this to say about the event:
Presentation after presentation, what struck me most is just how much climate change already is and will continue to impact our daily lives—and how interconnected those impacts are. Actually, a quick glance at the agenda was all it took to realize this workshop was going to be about much more than just predictions of yearly rainfall or average temperatures. The speakers were climatologists, public health experts, community planners, and policy specialists. And the participants were just as diverse—educators, urban planners, local officials, and private consultants.
Of course, we did talk about climate concepts and trends. IISG’s Molly Woloszyn kicked things off by making sure we were all on the same page about the difference between weather and climate—short-term changes vs. long-term averages. And throughout the day, Illinois State Climatologist Jim Angel told us that temperatures have risen by roughly 1.5o F over the last century and that we can expect drier summers and more precipitation in winter, spring, and fall.
Much of the day, though, was dedicated to what these changes mean for the people and wildlife that call the Chicago area home. Some impacts are pretty straightforward—you have likely seen them already. Warmer temperatures mean greater strain on an aging energy infrastructure and higher rates of heatstroke. Wetter springs means more stormwater runoff and basement flooding. And summertime droughts could lower crop yields and increase food prices.
Many were hard to see at first glance. As nice as they sound to many of us, warmer winters could have serious repercussions for public health, infrastructure, and Great Lake ecosystems. For example, with less frequent deep freezes, some disease-carrying insects could persist throughout the year. Fluctuations between freezing and thawing will also create more potholes and cracks in building exteriors. And—most unexpected to me—warmer water temperatures could make Lake Michigan and surrounding waterways more welcoming to a whole new suite of invasive species that could never have lived there before.
Fortunately, presenters came armed with solutions as well. Most were adaptation strategies—steps to prepare for climate change impacts. Speakers from Chicago Wilderness, the Alliance for the Great Lakes, and Hey and Associates, for example, showed how planting native trees, building rain gardens, and restoring natural areas could simultaneously filter pollutants from stormwater, lower air temperatures, and reconnect habitats divided by urbanization. Samuel Dorevitch, a professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago, and Dan Gabel from ComEd talked about the importance of early warning systems and emergency response plans. And the Center for Neighborhood Technology’s Harriet Festing introduced their Rain Readyprogram, which helps homeowners and communities understand flooding causes and prepare for future storms.
But don’t just take my word for it. All the presentations will soon be available on the Resilient Chicago website. In the meantime, peruse the many Midwestern Regional Climate Center resources on climate change predictions and adaptation planning.
The National Weather Service’s Weather-Ready Nation initiative was begun to help communities throughout the country better prepare for and respond to severe weather events. Much of that preparedness has to do with increasing the speed, accuracy, and effectiveness of weather monitoring and warning mechanisms on the local level. And finding the strongest ways to communicate weather messages to residents is key.
That is why, as part of the Weather-Ready Nation project, the Great Lakes Social Science Network conducted extensive research into the most effective impact-based warnings. Their report, “Evaluation of the National Weather Service Impact-based Warning Tool,” utilized interviews, focus groups, and surveys to determine the most and least effective ways for broadcast meteorologists and emergency managers to communicate these warnings to the public.
National Weather Service piloted an impact-based warning system in 2012 in five select offices, and expanded it to the central region’s 38 offices in 2013. The report offers a sort of mid-term evaluation of the system’s effectiveness and stakeholders’ perceptions of it, while also providing recommendations for further training and implementation improvements.
This research was a team effort between representatives from five Great Lakes Sea Grant programs. Caitie McCoy and Leslie Dorworth from Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant were involved, as well as Dr. Jane Harrison (Wisconsin Sea Grant), Dr. Kathy Bunting-Howarth (New York Sea Grant), Hilarie Sorensen (Minnesota Sea Grant), Katie Williams (University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee), and Dr. Chris Ellis (NOAA Coastal Services Center). The report was presented earlier this year to the Social Coast Forum in Charleston, SC, sparking a number of other groups and agencies to inquire about the report and possible opportunities to expand on it with further research.
For further information about the Great Lakes Social Science Network, as well as training and future research projects, visit the link above.
Higher temperatures, extreme rainstorms, loss of wildlife, and a drop in Lake Michigan water levels. This is what the Midwest can expect in the coming decades according to the latest review of climate change trends.
Released on Tuesday, the 2014 National Climate Assessment provides an in-depth look at the expected impacts of climate change across the country. The report also investigates how businesses, agriculture, infrastructure, natural resources, and public health will be affected if current trends continue.
Midwesterners have likely noticed a few of the projected changes already. Summers are longer and warmer, winters are wetter, and flooding is increasing. But some of the long-term impacts might not be as apparent. For example, higher water temperatures could drive out fish species and make it easier for non-native species to invade new habitats. Stronger rainstorms, especially in cities, will also mean more runoff that pollutes waterways and erodes shorelines and river banks.
Visit our climate change page for information on what communities and individuals can do to mitigate and prepare for the changing climate.
Go To 2040—northeastern Illinois’ compressive development plan—received a 2013 National Award for Smart Growth Achievement earlier this month for its innovative approach to conserving natural resources, protecting public health, and strengthening local economies. Developed by the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP), the plan addresses transportation needs, energy efficiency, and other long-term concerns for the ever-growing metropolitan area.
Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant’s Margaret Schneeman and Martin Jaffe worked closely with CMAP to develop the water supply planning recommendations included in the regional plan. IISG has also taken the lead in implementing key recommendations such as full-cost water pricing and outdoor water conservation. And Molly Woloszyn, IISG’s extension climatologist, assisted in the development of climate adaptation recommendations for municipalities.
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