INDIANAPOLIS — The first signs of the climatic things to come for Indiana won't be less availability of homemade syrup in stores, flooded cornfields or more solar farms.
The most noticeable sign will be the heat, according to various studies of the impact by mid-century of climate change on Indiana.
Temperatures will rise by five degrees.
Winters and springs will become wetter with 6% to 8% more rainfall. Heavy rain events will increase.
And there will be more extremely hot days in the state, according to the Indiana Climate Change Impacts Assessment led by the Purdue Climate Change Research Center, which has released eight reports that are all accessible online at https://ag.purdue.edu/climate.
There have been dozens of studies on Indiana's future weather, including localized reports by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Centers for Environmental Information, the Union of Concerned Scientists and the United States Drought Monitor, among others.
This article, citing those reports, depicts worst-case heat scenarios by the year 2050.
The short solution, the reports note, is for the state of Indiana and communities to become resilient and develop energy efficient programs that reduce carbon emissions.
Midwesterners will experience increased frequency of extreme weather events due to climate change, including heat waves, floods, and lake-effect snow.
Here are scenarios based on high-carbon emission predictions:
Historically, Indiana has experienced three days in the north and five days in the south with consecutive daily temperatures of 86 degrees and higher. By 2050, that will bump up to at least eight days down south, six days in central Indiana and five days in the north.
Children and the elderly have always been at risk from rising temperatures. Children breathe faster as their lungs develop so they take in more air pollutants. By 2050, 20 percent of the population (growing from 14 percent) will be 65 years of age or older. Reports of respiratory distress will increase, putting greater burdens on hospitals. Look for increases in mold problems related to flooding, and even PTSD as Hoosiers experience extreme weather events.
LONGER GROWING SEASON, BUT ...
The current 175-day frost-free season (when the temperature continuously stays above 42 degrees) will increase by three weeks, which in turn will extend the allergy season.
Heat will hit southern Indiana hardest as daily high temperatures exceed 95 degrees, stretching between 50 to 89 days each year by the time 2100 rolls around. Historically, the south has averaged between five to seven extremely hot days a year. Residential air conditioning will increase by 23 to 28 percent in Indiana's 15 largest cities.
By the year 2100, summers will be blistering. Anderson, which averages 82 degrees during the season, will be comparable to current-day New Braunfels, Texas, which averages 93 degrees. Similarly Terre Haute will register summer averages up from its 85 degrees to 96 degrees like present-day Pharr, Texas.
By mid-century, water levels in Lake Michigan will drop up to two feet, affecting beach ecosystems.
Indiana farms, of course, need rain. But precipitation will drop during the summer growing season. (Only 3 percent of Indiana crops have access to irrigation).
Rainfall will drench Indiana in the spring, leading to delays in planting. Heavy rains will be more common throughout the year, creating more flash floods and boosting property insurance premiums and possible breeches of levees and dams.
Winters and springs will become 30 percent wetter. Heavy rainfalls will be 64 percent more frequent.
Agricultural growing seasons will become longer with increased risks for drought and longer periods for pests and heat stress. Corn crops already fail with prolonged periods of 95 degrees. Corn yields could fall by as much as 50 percent. Wheat (declining 15 percent in southwestern Indiana) and tomatoes can fail at ever lower temperatures.
Tick-borne illnesses will intensify. Pests will have longer periods to transmit Lyme disease and the West Nile and Zika viruses. The Asian tiger mosquito and the Asian bush mosquito have been found in Indiana; they carry yellow fever.
Heat stress will hit dairy cattle hard. Milk production declines when temperatures exceed 80 degrees depending on humidity. Livestock kept in costly air-conditioned barns may fare well, but there will be danger to those in the fields.
Broiler chickens will have higher mortality. Laying hens will have reduced laying rates, with lower egg weights and poorer shell quality.
Heavy rains will lead to more runoff, including raw materials from sewage. Indianapolis has been worst with raw sewage spilling into White River.
Rising temperatures and reduced summer rains will extend the growing season and lead to drought. Crop yields will drop. And in times of drought, local governments may limit the irrigation of residential lawns or washing cars as they do now. But more importantly to homeowners, local governments might consider raising the price of water during crises, according to a state study from 2015.
Snowfall will drop as winter temperatures warm by five to six degrees; snow cover days decline by at least 32 percent. Snowmobiling will dwindle from 16 days to about six. So will artificial snow making as suitable temperature days dip from 18 to 10, sliding down to five days by 2100.
Indiana produced 15,398 gallons of syrup in 2018 (Elkhart County had the most sugar camp producers), more than enough for 1.5 million pancakes. When spring warms by mid-century, sap flow time will be reduced.
In 2017, sugar camps reported using an average of 49.2 gallons of sugar water, or sap, to produce a gallon of syrup. In 2018, some Indiana sugar camps said they needed between 60 to 80 gallons for one gallon of syrup. There were a variety of reasons, reported the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, including "warmer weather at the end of the season, an increased number of soft maple taps, and increased stress on tapped trees in the summer."
But in a bright spot for consumers, warm temperatures might be right to grow common persimmon or pecan trees, which are usually found in the South not far from the Mississippi River.
The warming of Indiana's coldest annual temperatures will make it more suitable for peach, pluot and nectarine production, and it may become possible to grow fruit that currently lacks hardiness for Indiana's climate, like boysenberry and tayberry.
INDIANA CLIMATE REPORT
Numerous reports on climate change have been issued including the Obama administration's White House review of carbon pollution in Indiana.
It found: "Midwesterners will experience increased frequency and intensity of extreme weather events due to climate change, including heat waves, floods, and lake-effect snow. In 2011, 11 of the 14 U.S. weather-related disasters with damages of more than $1 billion occurred in the Midwest.
"While severe flooding is already an issue in the region — in 2008, floods caused 24 deaths and $8 billion in agricultural losses — likely increases in precipitation in winter and spring and more heavy downpours mean it is expected to become more commonplace. Greater evaporation in the summer is also likely to result in water deficits. Longer and more extreme heat waves will impact human health through reduced air quality and increases in insect and waterborne diseases, and require increased use of electricity for cooling, further increasing carbon pollution.
"While the longer growing season provides the potential for increased crop yields, increases in heat waves, floods, droughts, insects, and weeds will present growing challenges to managing crops, livestock, and forests."
The Trump administration maintains that mining and oil and gas extraction is contributing to economic growth. The administration does not accept forecasts that the United States is running out of energy. It has, among other initiatives, opened the Alaska national wildlife refuge for energy exploration.
In April, Vice President Mike Pence told workers at Latshaw Drilling Rig 45 in west Texas: "It's kind of amazing for this Midwesterner to think that back when you could only drill downward, a rig could produce about 120,000 barrels of oil in 35 years. But now, with new technology, being able to drill horizontally, a rig can produce up to 200,000 barrels in just one year."