Purdue climate change report: Without changes, Allen County to see extreme heat, more flooding in decades to come

The green line shows the temperature change globally since 1900. The red line shows how that trend will continue and the purple one shows the possible alternative if humans make changes. (Photo by Lisa M. Esquivel Long of News-Sentinel.com)

Within a couple of decades, we might all be living in Tennessee – without the need for a moving van.

While Hoosiers may geographically reside in Indiana, their environment will be more like that experienced currently in Tennessee. That’s according to a report by the Purdue Climate Change Research Center that will be released Thursday, one of nine expected to come out this year. Members of the Northeast Indiana Sierra Club got an early look during a presentation Monday by Melissa Widhalm of the center at the Environmental Resources Center in the College of Arts and Sciences at Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne.

The next report expected in April from the Purdue Climate Change Research Center deals with the effect on health, Widhalm said. Another report will look at the effect on agriculture. The others are aquatic ecosystems, energy, forest and urban ecosystems, infrastructure, tourism and recreation and water resources.

NASA has used supercomputers to measure both the natural and human causes of climate change, and found the latter to be the major cause, Widhalm said.

In discussions of climate change, many people may not understand the ramifications of just a 2- or 3-degree change in temperatures. However, the effect can best be seen in Glacier National Park in Montana. When it opened in 1910 it had 150 active glaciers; today it has 25, Widhalm said.

“At this pace, Glacier National Park could be ice-free by 2030,” she said.

Some things that Allen County resident could see:

*Our cold temperatures will be less extreme. While it will still be cold, it won’t be extreme cold. On the flip side, the area will see more extreme hot days. Between 1915 and 2003, the area averaged 15 days of temperatures 90 degrees or above. Around 2050, that number would rise to 62 days. For those with asthma and heart disease, the effect will be deadly. Crops will die, roads will buckle and it will also cause strain on the power grid as people use their air conditioning more.

*We rely on cool nights to give our bodies a rest from the hot temperatures of the day, but in the future nights will be warmer, Widhalm said. Nights 68 degrees and above will increase from an average of 16 from 1915 to 2013 to 52 around 2050.

*We’ll see 37 fewer days where temperatures fall below freezing. “Great, we’re not going to be as cold,” Widhalm said, “…but this is going to cause some serious impact on invasive pests.” They won’t stay as far south as they do now. Fort Wayne gardeners will see the hardiness zone change from 6a to 7a around 2050, which is what people in Tennessee see.

*The Allen County growing season will expand from 174 days to 207. It might mean more crops, but it will extend the ragweed season, and plants will produce more pollen.

*Fort Wayne is no stranger to flooding. In the future rainfall will increase 8 percent, mostly in the spring and winter months when flooding is already threatening. “It’s not just a change in the amount, but in the intensity as well,” Widhalm said.

The government has the most impact on creating changes so Hoosiers should ask their representatives to support changes that affect climate change, Widhalm said.

To see the report Thursday, go to Indianaclimate.org.


WHAT: Northeast Indiana Sierra Club

WHEN: 6:30 p.m. the fourth Monday of the month

WHERE: Dupont library branch, 536 E. Dupont Road

NOTE: the next meeting March 26 will be a follow-up on the climate report