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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: HYDROLOGIC AND ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACTS OF CONSERVATION PRACTICES IN OKLAHOMA AGRICULTURAL WATERSHEDS

Location: Great Plains Agroclimate and Natural Resources Research Unit

Title: Great plains regional climate assessment technical report

Authors
item Ojima, Dennis -
item Steiner, Jean
item Mcneeley, Shannon -
item Cozetto, Karen -
item Childress, Amber -
item Cole, Noel
item Drummond, Mark -
item Morgan, Jack
item Howell, Terry
item Markstrom, Steve -
item Lazrus, Heather -
item Averyt, Kristen -
item Farris, Laura -
item Miller, Kathy -
item Gascoine, Billy -
item Gough, Bob -
item Tellinghouse, Stacy -
item Tidwell, Vince -
item Gross, John -
item Skagins, Susan -
item Kunkel, Ken -
item Stevens, Laura -
item Kruk, Michael -
item Thomas, Devin -
item Janssen, Emily -
item Hubbard, Kenneth -
item Schulski, Martha -
item Umphlett, Natalie -
item Robbins, Kevin -
item Romolo, Luigi -
item Akyuz, Adnan -
item Pathak, Tapan -
item Bergantino, Tony -
item Aldridge, Cam -
item Wood, Elizabeth -
item Rose, Matt -
item Wellings, Leigh -

Submitted to: Government Publication/Report
Publication Type: Other
Publication Acceptance Date: May 18, 2012
Publication Date: N/A

Technical Abstract: The Great Plains region (GP) plays important role in providing food and energy to the economy of the United States. Multiple climatic and non-climatic stressors put multiple sectors, livelihoods and communities at risk, including agriculture, water, ecosystems and rural and tribal communities. The GP is characterized by high spatial and temporal climate variability, and climate change is already happening with an overall warming trend. North Dakota, for example, has experienced an average annual temperature increase of 0.26ºF per decade during the last 130 years, the fastest increase in the nation. Over the last decade the region has seen significant extremes, from Missouri River Basin flooding, to exceptional drought in the Southern Plains, to fires and tornadoes resulting in billions of dollars in economic damage, morbidity, and mortality. Changes in precipitation patterns, the timing of seasonality of rain and snow and the alterations of large scale circulation patterns have major impacts on water availability in the region. Decreased snowfall in lower mountain elevations combined with earlier spring runoff impacts the timing and amount of streamflow affecting irrigators and other users of surface water resources. The Northern Great Plains is expected to increase in extreme precipitation events, leading to more damaging flooding. Drought is expected to increase, especially in the drier western portions of the GP. Groundwater systems that are already stressed, such as in Ogallala Aquifer, will be further stressed by climate change. Crops will be impacted differently where some GP areas will benefit from a longer growing season and more rainfall while others parts will experience decreased productivity because of drought and extreme temperatures. Livestock industries are vulnerable to climate extremes and may face increased competition for land and water resources. Bioenergy production is an area of potential rural economic development and may contribute to domestic energy independence and reduction of fossil fuel use and greenhouse gas emissions. One limitation on the expansion of corn ethanol production in the GP is the use of ground water in already water-stressed areas. Because of the importance of energy and water in the Great Plains, the water-energy nexus is critical to understand. Water is needed for energy extraction, production, and power; energy is needed to move and treat water. The GP population has been moving into urban areas, which are vulnerable to climate change. Heat waves lead to increased morbidity of the highly vulnerable populations in cities. Heat waves with long periods over 100ºF increase problems with transportation and electricity infrastructure. The 65 registered Native American tribes in the GP are often located in relatively marginal areas lacking access to fertile soils, appropriate housing, electricity and energy sources, food and water sources. This makes many tribal members vulnerable to impacts of climate change, but also sources of innovation in developing and sustaining viable economies and providing a set of strategies to cope with climate change. Ecosystems are stressed by climate variability and change such as droughts, floods, and winter storms that have altered plant community phenology, streamflow, and wetland dynamics. Warming water temperatures combined with stressors such as impoundments, diversions, sedimentation, decreased water quality are pushing aquatic species to their limits. Change of the timing and amount of hydrological events critical to breeding or migration times will exacerbate by stresses on aquatic species. Climate change will shift the geographic distribution of diseases in the Great Plains, which will affect human, ecosystem, and livestock health. Addressing climate change and its effects on ecosystems, resources, and society will require coordination of multiple organizations, institutions, and government programs. There are few well-coordinated efforts between agencies or institutions, and there are challenges of knowledge dissemination and monitoring of impacts, vulnerabilities, and adaptations for preparing for or responding to climate change. Lack of coordination and communication results in inefficiency, and limits ability to assess climate change impacts and focus research activities strategically. Wherever possible, participatory research, iterative risk-based analysis between researchers, stakeholders, natural resource managers, and policy makers are needed for collaborative decision making to deal with the impacts of climate change.

Last Modified: 9/1/2014
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