Climate Change Hits Home in Kansas

Thursday, Jan 7, 2010  |  Updated 5:18 PM CDT
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Climate Change Hits Home in Kansas

LAWRENCE, Kansas, November 13, 2008 (ENS) - Over the next century, climate change will bring more hot, dry weather, more insects and more storms to Kansas - and eastern and western Kansas will be affected in different ways, according to research published at the University of Kansas on Tuesday.

University of Kansas scientists Nathaniel Brunsell and Johannes Feddema show that if emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases continue to increase as projected in the middle of the road scenario outlined by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, IPCC, then by 2100 temperatures in Kansas will rise in all seasons, in all parts of the state.

"If we continue on as we're going, these are the conditions we're likely to face," said Brunsel. "We need to decide as a society how we want to meet these conditions."

Western Kansas will become warmer and drier, say Brunsell and Feddema. Soil moisture will decrease, putting more pressure on irrigation. During the summer, water need will increase as much as eight inches.

Eastern Kansas will become warmer and wetter. But the higher temperatures will offset any increases in precipitation, due to the increase in evaporation rates. The result could actually be an overall drying effect. Less water will be available for rivers and reservoirs in winter, and plant stress will increase in summer.

"What’s important to remember - these are projections. They are not predictions. If we change how we use energy and if we reduce our emisions, then we stil have the power to alter these outcomes," said Feddema at the K-State Extension Conference in October.

Right now, however, drought patterns are already intensifying across the state, the scientists said, with the greatest decrease in winter moisture is taking place in western Kansas.

The greatest increase in spring moisture is occurring in eastern Kansas.

As the century progresses, Southwest Kansas could see increases as high as eight degrees Fahrenheit, and higher summer temperatures will create more heat waves, the scientists predict.

The number of days that people run their air conditioning will increase by about 50 percent. Higher summer nighttime temperatures will stress livestock and crops.

Freezing days will decrease during the winter. By 2060, winter temperatures will mostly stay above freezing. The number of days that people run their heaters will decrease by about 25 percent.

The lack of hard freezes means that insects will thrive and diseases will increase among plants, animals, and humans, they said.

The weather will become more variable. Yearly precipitation totals will stay about the same, but precipitation patterns will shift, becoming less predictable and less frequent, broken up by longer periods of dry weather.

There will be fewer snow events. Individual rainstorms will become more intense when they occur, likely leading to more flooding.

Temperatures will rise and evaporation rates will increase, but yearly precipitation will not increase to meet the need for additional water.

Brunsell and Feddema conducted the report for the Climate Change and Energy Project, which was established in 2007 by the Land Institute based in Salina, Kansas.

Nancy Jackson, executive director of the Climate and Energy Project, said, "When people talk about climate change, too often they ignore the costs of not dealing with it. They also ignore the economic opportunities for Kansas in shifting to a clean energy economy."

{Photo: Low water levels at Clinton Lake near Lawrence, Kansas (Photo by Patrick Emerson)}

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2008. All rights reserved.

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