Stormy clouds.

MN Impact: Localized Climate Projection Maps Help Explain the Affect of Climate Change

August 23, 2019

Objective

Research will led to new knowledge and technologies related to climate change. (Measure: number of new crop varieties and genotypes with climate adaptive traits; number of new assessment and management tools developed, including models and measurements; number of new climate relevant databases, monitoring systems and inventories managed or under development)

Issue

For years, Minnesota climate and forest scientists have suspected the state's tree cover would creep northward as the Earth's climate warms. However, they have lacked the technical tools to predict these decades long changes and ability to localize the issue for Minnesota residents.

What has been done

A team of University scientists used a series of worldwide climate projection models and adapted them to predict local changes to Minnesota's climate and landscape. From roughly 40 computer models available, University researchers chose three, known as BCC, CCSM4 and Miroc, to capture the range of outcomes.

Because trees are sensitive to average temperatures and rainfall, and because Minnesota contains the edges of several biomes where tree species are especially susceptible to change, Minnesota's forest cover could transform in coming decades. Oaks that are common in western and southwestern Minnnesota are likely to migrate north while the pines of the boreal forest in northeastern Minnesota are more likely to recede north and perhaps disappear from the state entirely.

Results

The result of this localized research is nine maps--three CO2 scenarios, each with three different temperature predictions--reflecting thousands of variables that were painstakingly entered into computer models.

The maps feature a surprising level of detail, with each square representing a square kilometer. Projections related to precipitation levels, average summer temperature, and water balance allow researchers to predict what will be temperate forest, boreal forest and prairie for each square in 2070.

The study is highlighted in an exhibit at the new Bell Museum, called Weather to Climate: Our Changing World, which runs from Feb. 2 to April 28, 2019 providing a new way for researchers to share climate related knowledge with the public.