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Indiana-Specific Impacts of the Climate Crisis

Climate change factored in to making 2020 the worst year yet for wildfires in the West and hurricanes in the Atlantic region. But how is it affecting the Midwest?


Temperatures


We use average temperature as a tool to analyze data and an overall indicator because the values don’t fluctuate much after data points from many locations over long periods of time are combined. Average temperatures make it easy to identify trends and extreme years.


Since 1985, Indiana’s average temperature has risen 1.2°F, and it is projected to raise 5-6 °F by mid-century. The fact that 2012, the year with the highest average temperature in Indiana was only 3.8 °F higher than average shows the seriousness of a 5-6°F raise in temperature.


The Wet Bulb Globe Temperature (WBGT) is an index that measures the risk for heat illness. If the WBGT is 73-82 °F there are high risk conditions, and if it is above 82°F, there are very high risk conditions. By mid-century, 10 to 30 days each year will have a WBGT of 80 to 86 °F.


Hotter temperatures also increase ground level ozone production, which will increase symptoms experienced by people with asthma and extend the allergy season.


Precipitation


Since 1895, annual total precipitation has increased by 15% (5.6 inches) in Indiana, mostly during winter and spring.


This extra precipitation increases risk of flooding, a deadly issue in the Midwest. In 2008, flooding killed 24 people. 2018 brought devastating floods to cities in northern Indiana.




Sewer systems are also overflowing and are already an issue in indiana. Heavy rainfall causes about 60 sewage discharges each year in Indianapolis, which sends billions of gallons of untreated sewage into the White River, disrupting natural ecosystems and making the river toxic. As rainfall continues this problem will be exacerbated.


Droughts will also occur more frequently and severely in Indiana. Evaporation caused by higher temperatures coupled with water runoff can cause droughts, much like the extreme drought in Indiana in 2012.


Increased precipitation springs also decreases the number of days available for planting. Keep reading to learn more about how climate change affects Indiana crops.


Crops

Climate change has negatively impacted agriculture in a variety of ways. Here are a few of them:

  • Warmer temperatures at night have reduced corn yields over the last decade; every 1°F increase in July overnight temperatures leads to a 2% yield reduction.

  • Heat stress and water deficits are projected to reduce corn and soy yields by 16-20% and 9-11%, respectively, by 2050.

  • Higher temperatures put livestock at risk of heat stress, reducing feed intake, productivity, and fertility.

  • Specialty crop yields such as fruits and vine trees will be at risk for erratic blooms, yield loss, and reduced quality. They are sensitive to rising temperatures, and their dormancy periods will be affected.

  • Weeds, pests and diseases will be a bigger issue to Indiana agriculture. Different diseases are correlated with increased temperatures, increased moisture, and warmer winters. US corn producers already spend more than $1B on pest management, and they will need to spend more as this issue intensifies.


For more information about climate change in Indiana, you can check out Purdue’s Indiana Climate Change Impacts Assessment.



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