WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Indiana’s average air temperatures are expected to rise by as much as 6 degrees Fahrenheit by mid-century, warming and reducing wintertime ice cover on the state’s lakes, streams, and rivers. At the same time, increases in winter and spring rainfall will likely wash more nutrients from farm fields into those water bodies, adding significant challenges to already fragile ecosystems.
Those are some of the key points in “Aquatic Ecosystems in a Shifting Indiana Climate,” the latest report from the Purdue University-based Indiana Climate Change Impacts Assessment, released during a community briefing Sept. 12 at Bass Pro Shops in Portage, Indiana.
“Changes in Indiana’s climate are going to affect the timing of water flows, the quality of water and water temperatures. All of these things have major implications for the wide variety of animals and plants that live in aquatic ecosystems,” said Jeff Dukes, director of the Purdue Climate Change Research Center. “Climate change is an additional stressor to Indiana’s native fish population. We already have invasive fish in many of our water bodies, and we have added a wide variety of pollutants and nutrients to our streams. How well some of our native populations will be able to deal with this accumulation of stresses piling up on them is still unclear.”
Rising water temperatures will likely shift stratification – the layering of water at different depths in lakes. That may improve or increase habitat for the state’s warm water fish.
However, those rising temperatures and increasing spring rain totals will send more nutrients from farm fields into nearby waters. That combination is problematic for many coldwater species, such as cisco, a native fish that used to exist in about 50 of the state’s lakes but has already suffered from rising temperatures.
“Because many of our lakes are very nutrient-rich, they experience large algal blooms in late spring and summer, which may grow larger with warmer temperatures and more spring runoff. Dead algae later settle to the lake’s bottom and are decomposed by bacteria, depleting the water’s oxygen,” said Tomas Höök, Purdue professor of fisheries and aquatic sciences, director of Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant and lead author of the report. “This creates hypoxia in bottom waters. Cisco are going to get really squeezed from warmer temperatures on the surface and lack of oxygen on the bottom. Cisco persist in six lakes right now, but they may not be present in the state much longer.”
Changing precipitation patterns could also negatively impact Indiana’s already-endangered freshwater mussels, with different effects across seasons. Drier summers will likely reduce water levels in streams where the mussels live, exposing them to intolerable conditions. In the spring increased stream flows could dislodge mussels from their habitats in rivers.
Wetlands may stay wet longer in the spring and dry more than usual during the summer, altering ecosystems that depend on critical seasonal timing. Some plants and animals adapted to Indiana’s current climate may not thrive here in the coming decades.
In Lake Michigan, where near-surface temperatures have already warmed by 3 degrees Fahrenheit since 1980, temperature changes could lead some coldwater fishes, such as salmon, trout and lake whitefish, to move further offshore to deeper waters. As a result, they may spend less time in the Indiana waters of Lake Michigan, which are relatively shallow and warm. The lake’s warmer temperatures could also affect growth, spawning or reproductive processes for many valuable commercial and sport fish species.
Höök suggests those tasked with managing Indiana’s aquatic ecosystems focus on maintaining or increasing both genetic and habitat diversity.
“Trying to make precise predictions of how species will respond to climate change is tricky,” Höök said. “Climate change is one of many factors impacting aquatic organisms, along with pollution, invasive species, fisheries harvest and habitat destruction. But maintaining a diversity of species, habitats and genetic variation within these ecosystems should help buffer against these different stressors.”
Carolyn Foley, research coordinator for Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant and a co-author on the report, suggests that people all over the state have the ability to help work on the issue, from researchers to everyday people.
“There are a lot of freshwater ecosystems in Indiana—streams, rivers, wetlands, lakes, reservoirs,” said Foley. “And a lot of great, water-related research happening here, too. In this report, researchers worked together to paint a rich picture of how aquatic ecosystem components might be affected by climate change. If the general public wants to help, they could think about volunteering with local watershed alliances or other organizations trying to improve waterways through cleanups, habitat restoration, or decreasing runoff from land to water. Keeping waters as healthy as possible will support robust ecosystems, which are more likely to successfully navigate the changes that are coming.”
The Indiana Climate Change Impacts Assessment (IN CCIA) is compiling the latest scientific research into a series of easily understandable reports about climate change impacts in 10 topic areas: climate, health, forest ecosystems, aquatic ecosystems, urban green infrastructure, tourism and recreation, agriculture, water resources, energy, and infrastructure. The assessment team consists of more than 100 experts from Purdue and other Indiana institutions.
The IN CCIA has now released six reports. All are available on the IN CCIA website at http://indianaclimate.org/. For more information about the IN CCIA, go to the website or follow on social media at @PurdueCCRC, #ClimateChange, #INCCIA.
Writer: Brian Wallheimer, 765-532-0233, firstname.lastname@example.org
Sources: Jeff Dukes, 765-496-3662, email@example.com
Tomas Höök, 765-496-6799, firstname.lastname@example.org
Carolyn Foley, email@example.com
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Warming temperatures and changes to Indiana’s precipitation patterns will challenge some of the plants and animals that depend on the state’s water for their survival, according to a new report from the Indiana Climate Change Impacts Assessment team assembled and managed by Purdue University.
The report, “Aquatic Ecosystems in a Shifting Indiana Climate,” will be released during a community briefing at 11 a.m. CDT, Sept. 12 in the Conservation Room at Bass Pro Shops, 6425 Daniel Burnham Drive, Portage, Indiana. The event is open to the public.
The temperature of Indiana’s waters—from inland ponds, lakes and rivers to the southern portion of Lake Michigan—is expected to rise with air temperatures over the coming decades. Impacts will include changes in the growth patterns, movement and reproduction of fish, which could have consequences for both commercial and sport fishing.
More rainfall in the spring and less in the summer would change stream flows, potentially damaging habitats for aquatic organisms such as Indiana’s several endangered mussel species.
“Aquatic Ecosystems in a Shifting Indiana Climate,” will be released during a community briefing at 11 a.m. CDT, Wednesday, Sept. 12, in the Conservation Room at Bass Pro Shops, 6425 Daniel Burnham Drive, Portage, Indiana. The report will discuss how changing climate conditions will affect Indiana’s fish population. (Purdue University photo)
“For many animals, climate change is a little like a game of Jenga. Climate change is pulling more and more blocks out of the tower. We don’t know exactly which block will be the last for a particular species of fish or amphibians,” said Jeff Dukes, director of the Purdue Climate Change Research Center. “We’ve already reduced their habitats, and climate change is another challenge. How much change can they take?”
Ecologists and biologists from Purdue, Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant, the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, Ball State University and the University of Notre Dame contributed to the report. Tomas Höök, Purdue professor of fisheries and aquatic sciences and director of Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant, is lead author.
The Indiana Climate Change Impacts Assessment (IN CCIA) has compiled the latest scientific research into a series of easily understandable reports about climate change impacts in ten topic areas: climate, health, forest ecosystems, aquatic ecosystems, urban green infrastructure, tourism and recreation, agriculture, water resources, energy, and infrastructure.
The reports that have been previously released are available on the IN CCIA website at http://IndianaClimate.org. For more information about the IN CCIA, go to the website or follow on social media at @PurdueCCRC, #ClimateChange, #INCCIA.
Nutrients that flow into lakes and streams from urban and rural environments are a key cause of algal blooms, which can then crash into low-oxygen ‘dead zones.’ In fact, Illinois, with its many acres of farmland and its major municipalities, is a key contributor to nutrient pollution in the Gulf of Mexico. Researchers at the Illinois State Water Survey set out to better calculate nutrient levels in waterways, the dynamics of when nutrient pollution happens, and what this means in the face of a changing climate.
With support from Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant (IISG), hydrologist Momcilo Markus and his team looked at years of data from 14 rural and suburban watersheds in Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio to get a better understanding of the factors that influence pollution rates.
Markus’ work improved the accuracy of estimating nutrient loading from limited monitoring data. Typically, for most waterways, monitoring is infrequent—several data points are extrapolated for a year. The researchers used a rich Ohio data source where there is as much as 38 years of daily measures from 10 streams. This served as a Rosetta stone of sorts, and by modifying their calculations, they were able to make estimates of nutrient loading in Illinois and the Midwest more accurate.
“We adjusted our model to reflect reality as measured in real data,” explained Markus.
This new model could help scientists better measure of the amount of nutrients leaving the 13 watersheds prioritized in the Illinois Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy. In addition to continuous statewide tracking by eight U.S. Geological Survey super gauges for roughly the past year, natural resource managers have historic data that can be analyzed using Markus’ model to estimate long-term trends in Illinois’ statewide contributions to the Gulf.
The comprehensive study also reveals key patterns in nitrate, phosphorus, and sediment pollution. For example, although there is more precipitation in summer, river flows and nutrient levels are at their highest in winter and spring, when there are fewer plants to help prevent erosion and absorb nutrients. In fact, the five largest river flow events in a watershed carry more than half of the nutrients that run off it each year.
“A wet year in terms of nutrient loading is defined by large storm events,” said Markus. “More precipitation, on average, in a given year doesn’t necessarily lead to an increase in pollution. The increase is tied to heavy precipitation.”
The consensus of climate models shows that by mid-century in northern Illinois, there may well be a 15-30 percent increase in intensity and frequency of heavy storms.
For Illinois EPA, IDOA, and others charged with implementing the state’s nutrient strategy and reducing nutrient loading to the Gulf by 45 percent, these findings could lead to a more accurate understanding of the impact of their efforts. Farmers, city officials, and wastewater treatment plants across the Prairie State have been ramping up practices that reduce nitrogen and phosphorus loss since the state began work on the strategy in 2012.
At the same time, government agencies, university researchers, and others are keeping an eye on the amount of nutrients leaving the state to help determine whether current strategy practices are enough to reach reduction goals. Understanding the critical role high-intensity storms play in nutrient loads could help ensure the value of these efforts isn’t obscured by a wet year. And knowing that these types of storms will be more frequent gives the state lead time to adapt strategy practices to the changing climate.
“What we design today, may not be sufficient in the future,” said Markus. “We can speculate that there will be more pollution, so management strategies that work today may not down the road.”
Anjanette Riley is a contributing author.
Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant is a part of University of Illinois Extension and Purdue University Extension.
The last time I wrote for the IISG blog, I was overwhelmed with gratitude for how far the Knauss Fellowship had taken me—both figuratively through professional and personal development and literally by zig-zagging across the country. Since then, the travel and learning has not slowed down. I have eaten lunch on a dredging rig in the Gulf of Mexico, visited a research laboratory in Athens, Greece, attended a conference on deltas and climate change in the Netherlands, and explored the Everglades learning about the impending consequences of invasive species and climate change.
The fellowship is now coming to a close, and the tides are changing at work. The open-ended learning ended a few months ago when I committed the majority of my time to a new and exciting project with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Ever since the devastation of 2011, when over 14 weather and climate-related events—Hurricane Sandy being the most noteworthy—resulted in an unprecedented loss of lives and property, many federal agencies have begun their own investigation of climate change and disaster preparedness under the broad headline of “resilience.”
Resilience is an ambiguous word that can mean different things depending on the case and application, but most definitions include four key aspects: prepare, resist, recover, and adapt. Because the Corps is in charge of the nation’s water resources infrastructure, there is a huge need to investigate these concepts and research the best way to apply resilience to Corps policy and practice. I have been offered the opportunity to assist with much of this initial research. While it is intimidating to face such a huge issue and figure out how to recommend solutions for such a huge and venerable organization like the Corps, I wake up every day excited to learn more.
This coming February, we are working on a joint U.S. Army Corps and NOAA workshop to quantify resilience in Mobile Bay, AL. I will help test the method by working with community experts from the Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium and the local port authorities to be vetted later this spring by the National Academy of Sciences Transportation Research Board.
Despite all of this excitement, I know that my Master’s thesis is still waiting for me. Luckily, I have been given the opportunity to continue working in Washington D.C. at the Corps headquarter office and will work part-time on my thesis. I’m brainstorming possible locations to work on the thesis—it would be great to say that I wrote a chapter or two in the Library of Congress!
The Knauss Fellowship has been an unbelievable opportunity that continues to unfold!
The two IISG-sponsored Knauss Fellows selected for 2015 recently returned from D.C., where they met with other fellows, interviewed with government agencies and offices, and learned where they spend the next year working on water resource and environmental issues. Rachel Gentile, who is completing a PhD in Biological Sciences at Notre Dame, shares her experiences.
My placement is in the office of Rep. Alan Lowenthal (CA-47). I will be assisting with his marine policy portfolio and will also be directing the House Safe Climate Caucus. This means I will be managing the activities of the caucus and assisting with floor speeches, op-eds, and short videos to promote climate change awareness in the House of Representatives. I applied to the Knauss Sea Grant Fellowship because I wanted to assist with discussions concerning marine and climate issues on Capitol Hill, so this placement in Rep. Lowenthal’s office is a dream come true!
Placement week was a whirlwind of excitement for me. I thoroughly enjoyed meeting the other finalists, Knauss alumni, and the legislative hosts. I also learned a lot about the legislative process and my future role as a Knauss Fellow.
At the beginning of the week, we attended a series of lectures facilitated by the Congressional Research Service (CRS) and the Library of Congress. We learned how politics, policy, and procedure come together inside the walls of congress to pass—and fail—bills. We were introduced to CRS subject librarians and research specialists in marine, climate, and energy policy who will be incredibly helpful to us as we research these issues and write memos, talking points, floor speeches, and legislation.
Most of the week was spent in interviews with the host offices. I interviewed in 17 different offices over three days. I loved hearing about the work each office was doing. Many hosts talked about fisheries, marine national monuments, climate change adaptation, water and drought issues, and ocean acidification. There are many marine policy issues currently being addressed in congress, and as a Knauss Fellow, I will assist my host office with them.
Scenes of massive snowfall in Great Lakes communities like Kalamazoo and Buffalo may become a thing of the past. A new study out of the University of Wisconsin suggests the region could see less lake effect snow as soon as the mid-21st century due to climate change. The total amount of precipitation will likely go up, but warmer temperatures and less lake ice means the air blowing east across the lakes will bring rain instead.
From the Post-Standard:
The biggest change from snow to rain would be in November, the study shows, making the massive lake effect storm near Buffalo last month less likely by 2100. That stormdumped 90 inches of snowin some areas in five days. Thirteen people died and more than 100 miles of the New York State Thruway was shut down for days.
[Michael] Notaro’s article was published in the Journal of Climatejust days before the Buffalo-area storm. He is a senior scientist at the Nelson Institute Center for Climatic Research in Madison, Wisc.
The paradox of lake effect snow, however, is that before it begins to drop off after 2050 it might actually increase for a few decades, according to research by Notaro andColgate University professor Adam Burnett.
“My original idea was that in the short run, as the lakes become warmer and and lake ice disappears, we would still have enough cold air around to produce lake effect snow,” said Burnett, whose 2003 study showed a rise in lake effect snow from Lake Ontario. “You could end up with some pretty serious snows like we saw in Buffalo.” Read more
***Photo A: Lake effect snow near Buffalo, NY in November. Photo by Michael Garrood. ***Photo B: From WGGB in western Massachusetts.
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.
Summer and winter may look a little different this year. The National Weather Service Climate Prediction Center is reporting warmer temperatures in the Pacific Ocean along the equator, which could mean big things in the Midwest and around the world.
The global weather phenomenon is known as El Nino. It occurs every few years when a giant band of water in the tropical Pacific Ocean becomes unusually warm. This sets off a chain reaction of weather events that have historically resulted in severe droughts in portions of India, Southeast Asia, Australia, and South America. In contrast, El Nino often brings heavy rains to the West Coast.
The effects are a little milder in the Midwest, which is likely to see cooler summers and winters with less snowfall. Some parts of the region might even have better corn and soybean yields thanks to the milder temperatures.
El Nino events are difficult to predict, and there is no guarantee we will experience one this year. A recent advisory from the Climate Prediction Center, though, puts the chance of El Nino as high as 80 percent.
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.