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Study: Temperatures Expected To Rise 6 Degrees In 50 Years

Published On: Feb 08 2011 08:43:10 AM CST   Updated On: Feb 08 2011 12:25:22 PM CST

Wisconsin residents should expect warmer weather over the next 50 years in the state, and will need to adapt to the changing weather conditions, according to a new study on climate change by University of Wisconsin researchers.

The report, titled "Wisconsin's Changing Climate: Impacts and Adaptation," was released Monday by the Wisconsin Initiative on Climate Change Impacts.

The scientists project that Wisconsin's average temperature is likely to rise an 4 degrees to 9 degrees by the middle of the century. They said that will mean more total precipitation and more intense storms are highly probable in many parts of the state.

?This report is the first comprehensive survey of climate change impacts in Wisconsin, and it provides information that will help decision-makers begin to plan for the kinds of changes we're likely to see in the years ahead," said Lewis Gilbert, associate director of the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

UW scientists already have documented changes in Wisconsin's climate over the past 60 years, including a 1.3 degree Fahrenheit increase in the annual average temperature and more frequent occurrences of heavy rainfall.

The researchers said the higher temperatures will have big impacts around the state. For example, the higher temperatures will impact water resources by shortening the duration of lake ice cover and cause more frequent heavy rains, which will wash polluted runoff into lakes, triggering more algae blooms.

In agriculture, warmer temperature may produce a longer growing season may help boost agricultural production. However, hotter summers could reduce yields of crops such as corn and soybeans. The higher temperatures could also have a major impact on public health. Summer heat waves may become more frequent and last longer, and accumulations of smog and ground-level ozone could pose more frequent air-quality hazards.

"We need to think about what climate change could mean for our natural resources and actively plan to address the issue," said Jack Sullivan, director of science services at the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. Sullivan coordinates efforts within the agency to evaluate how a changing climate may alter its management responsibilities and how to minimize negative impacts.

The report cites specific actions decision makers could take to reduce the negative consequences of climate change and capitalize on potential benefits. Many of these actions, according to the report, promise multiple payoffs regardless of how much climate change occurs.

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