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Posted on Fri, Jan 18, 2013 : 2:59 p.m.

Climate change in Ann Arbor: Floods, drought, heat and buckeyes?

By Amy Biolchini

Buckeyes could become a fixture in Ann Arbor within the next 100 years if climate change continues on its path, environmental advocates say.

The buckeye tree whose fruit inspired the Brutus mascot for The Ohio State University could be migrating northwards in the near future as global temperatures warm.

It’s one of many effects of climate change that professors from the University of Michigan, as well as representatives from several Michigan environmental organizations, say could be a future reality.

Speaking Friday in a press call on the recently released draft of the National Climate Assessment report, environmental advocates outlined a disconcerting future for the mitten state: Increased heavy rainfall and flood events, more droughts and heat waves, struggling crops, beach erosion and declining water quality.


Drought-damaged corn on July 27, 2012, seen near Lawrence. The drought that hit Michigan in the summer of 2012 is a sign of things to come as a result of climate change, according to a new National Climate Assessment report released in January.

Robert Ray | AP file photo

Four University of Michigan professors were among 240 scientists who contributed to the National Climate Assessment report, which the federal government requires be compiled every four years for the U.S. Congress and the president. Public comments are being accepted on the draft through April 12.

Don Scavia, a U-M professor and director of the Graham Environmental Sustainability Institute, is one of the lead convening authors of the Midwest chapter of the National Climate Assessment report.

Scavia said the habitats for many iconic tree species in Michigan will likely shift northward into Canada as the average temperature continues to increase.

If no action is taken and carbon dioxide emissions continue at current rates, a five-degree average temperature increase is anticipated by mid-century, Scavia said.

Michigan’s agricultural industry will see major changes, said Frank Szollosi, Midwest outreach coordinator for the National Wildlife Federation’s Great Lakes Regional Center.


Unusually low water levels on the Great Lakes have caused problems for small harbor towns like Onekama, where this pontoon boat was stranded in Nov. 16, 2012, at the eastern end of Portage Lake. Levels in the Great Lakes are dropping because of droughts and climbing temperatures.

John Flesher | AP file photo

He predicted an increase in the use of federal crop insurance payments and disaster assistance, and an influx of large-scale chicken and cattle operations to Michigan because of the state’s water resources.

Any benefits from a longer growing season caused by increasing temperatures and heightened carbon dioxide levels will likely be offset by intense heat waves, droughts and floods, Scavia said.

Specialty crops like apples, peaches and cherries, as well as corn crops, will continue to struggle with climate change, Szollosi said.

The unusually warm winter followed by hard freezes in spring 2012 in Michigan resulted in a loss of 80 percent of the apples and peaches grown in the state, Szollosi said.

Cherry farmers in Michigan also saw a loss of about 90 percent of their crop in 2012, Szollosi said.

However, soybeans may be able to do well in the interim, Szollosi said.

Climate change will also cause heavy precipitation events that will overwhelm existing drainage infrastructure, said Brad van Guilder, organizing representative for the Sierra Club, meaning an increase of raw sewage overflows into Michigan waterways — especially in Detroit.

Warming water temperatures on the Great Lakes have already been observed this summer, said Nic Clark, Michigan director for Clean Water Action.

In the future, Clark said warmer lakes could fuel the growth of toxic algae and heighten impacts of invasive species.

A decreased ice cover on the Great Lakes will also mean a longer shipping season, Clark said.

Amy Biolchini covers Washtenaw County, health and environmental issues for Reach her at (734) 623-2552, or on Twitter.


L. C. Burgundy

Sun, Jan 20, 2013 : 6:02 p.m.

The past year was dry and warm, but paled in comparison to several years of the 1930's. In July 1936, SE Michigan had 7 consecutive days of temperatures 100+, to say nothing of the epic droughts of several summers in that decade. I've never heard it seriously suggested that human-caused "climate change" caused the truly extreme weather seen that decade, so to see it repeat even as a pale shadow of those events is not indicative of a whole lot. Getting beyond the postage stamp of land that the US represents, global temperatures have basically stalled for about the past decade. Inasmuch that "climate change" is responsible, I'm not convinced that anything we can do can directly affect it.


Sun, Jan 20, 2013 : 7:02 p.m.

You must have a different definition of stalled than the actual one. If 17 of the hottest global average temperatures have come in the last 20, how could they be stalling? Average temperatures have raised in conjunction with atmospheric CO2, as perdicted so many years ago. What is so hard to believe? We've burned much of the panet's fossil fuels and destroyed the forrests. Now we pay. Yes, it sucks, but putting our collective heads in the sand is ruining any chance we may have had to stem it.


Sun, Jan 20, 2013 : 6:09 a.m.

All the people that dispute climate change are either demented, insomuch as they have a twisted compulsion to lie or agitate people, ignorant, insofar as they either can't read or only read right-wing blogs and related material, or conservites in this country, who do so not because of facts or science, but because politicians, none of which are scientists, of the "news station" which should not be named, say it's a hoax. Nevermind 97% of climate scientists say it's not; forget that out of th last 14,000 climate reports by scientific bodies, less than 40 have disagreed hat GCC is anthropagnic (note that all concur-- the planet's climate had changed dramatically and is clearly warming). Everything is proceeding as we feared and preached for so many years. Very few listened then; only a few won't listen now; most, no in fact virtually all are from this country and are on the right side of side political ledger.


Sat, Jan 19, 2013 : 10:52 p.m.

Let me get this right. The ice caps are melting which was supposed to raise the water levels on earth, but I swear that the picture I am looking at shows a pontoon boat sitting on what used to be a lake. I remember seeing pictures of the dust storms in the 1930's and we have them again today. Only thing that is for sure about the climate is that it will change and in 20 years from now we'll be talking about how wet it is or how cold it is. If man thinks he can control the climate he is fooling himself. They used to throw people into volcanoes to try and do so whitout much luck, now scientists want politicians to tax us so they can fix the climate by spending billions of dollars studying it........right!


Sat, Jan 19, 2013 : 2:58 p.m.

Oh, why not; the Columbus Zoo has a live wolverine (described as "the most dangerous living animal".

G. Orwell

Sat, Jan 19, 2013 : 1:55 p.m.

It is so bias that the alarmists always screem about the negatives of AGW so they can scare the public into paying carbon taxes. Global warming also has positive aspects. Longer growing season to feed the hungery, less people dying and suffering from cold, etc. By the way, Europe and Asia are in a deep freeze. It may be warm here but other parts of the world are very cold. Thus, global temperatures are neutral.

David Cahill

Sat, Jan 19, 2013 : 1:54 p.m.

Warmer winters and the dramatic reduction of snowfall show that climate change has some benefits. I hate winter!

Ivor Ivorsen

Sat, Jan 19, 2013 : 2:44 p.m.

"dramatic reduction of snowfall" Really? Drought a benefit?


Sat, Jan 19, 2013 : 1:47 p.m.

Note the number of Al gore sightings. Can you tell who listens to Rush and Co? Remember, the same Media Elite folks that told you man made climate change is a hoax also told you to be afraid of Saddam Hussein and his massive stockpiles of anthrax and nuclear weapons. How was their accuracy on that one?


Sat, Jan 19, 2013 : 2:28 p.m.

Do you truly think he didn't have them just because the news says they didn't.


Sat, Jan 19, 2013 : 5:09 a.m.

What is wrong with a longer shipping season??


Sat, Jan 19, 2013 : 5:04 a.m.

"DERP DERP! Climate change is a hoax, just like evolution. Science is fake, the bible and corporations tell me so!"


Sat, Jan 19, 2013 : 4:59 a.m.

There are two Buckeye trees on Fletcher in front of the Dental School WK Kellogg building which have been there for 5 years. Organized religion has always been anti-science whenever it suits their needs. Plus, now when the 1% like the Koch brothers don't like science of the day because it might hurt their business, they spend their money and create a new reality. Publish it on the internet with mostly made up facts which plenty of dupes believe. the more money these rich guys spend the more dupes they create. Whatever happened to the pursuit of truth?

martini man

Sat, Jan 19, 2013 : 2:41 a.m.

Ban all automobiles, ban all AC units ..ban all grills ..ban all lawn mowers, ban everything, and we'll all live so happily.The liberal elite can look down from their mansions and chateaus and gloat about "saving the world ".. All us lemmings salute you for your wonderful caring and gracious mercy on us. Al Gore are a GOD and so are all those who espouse your beliefs.


Sat, Jan 19, 2013 : 1:44 p.m.

Why do you assume that people are asking for that? Few, if any are. What people are saying is "use less, use it wisely". How about leaving some fossil fuel energy for the next generations? Is that too radical?


Sat, Jan 19, 2013 : 5:06 a.m.

How about preserve our only home because we have nowhere else to go? Oh, sorry, that doesn't make you money. Burn the earth we'll eat ashes and plastic! Turn the world into a concrete covered dump like Detroit, who needs scenery!


Sat, Jan 19, 2013 : 12:39 a.m.

"near future as global temperatures warm" Where is the science to support this HOAX? We have University Professor supporting "Man Made Climate Change" because they get Grants to research this. Just like "Big Oil " talking about Fraking, Oil Spills etc! Why should you believe? ask for FACTS!


Sat, Jan 19, 2013 : 2:31 p.m.

News programs are just out to raise their ratings not to tell the truth. Come to think about it just like politicians.


Sat, Jan 19, 2013 : 1:42 p.m. Why shouldn't you believe? Because a pollster told you to talk about "lack of scientific agreement", so you do, without FACTS.


Sat, Jan 19, 2013 : 12:10 a.m.

Looks like Lake Michigan water levels were lower than now in these years. 1926 1934 1959 1964 This has happened before. Thanks for the article chicken little.


Sat, Jan 19, 2013 : 2:36 p.m.

The chart sure doesn't show any 23 inch change either direction. It looks like it pretty much averages 176 .


Sat, Jan 19, 2013 : 3:02 a.m.

You are right. Lake levels are down over the last 10 years. Look at the graph from the Army Corps of Engineers. This has happened 4 times in the last 100 years. These things are cyclical. Do you think lake Huron is going to dry up? All time lowest levels ever recorded were in 1959.


Sat, Jan 19, 2013 : 2:27 a.m.

oooh, I guess you won't the link that I just posted to you either....and I had another one for you, too. No point.


Sat, Jan 19, 2013 : 12:02 a.m.

So, Great lakes levels are low because of a drought this year. We have had droughts before. It must be global warming.


Fri, Jan 18, 2013 : 11:40 p.m.

Then again, what if we have three cooler than normal years in a row??


Fri, Jan 18, 2013 : 10:07 p.m.

I wonder if Al Gore Jr. will be getting rich off of the sure to follow ice age hysteria in 100 years? Buckeyes don't like the cold do they?


Fri, Jan 18, 2013 : 9:56 p.m.

Weather is cyclical

G. Orwell

Fri, Jan 18, 2013 : 9:30 p.m.

I look forward to warmer weather in Michigan. It's better than another ice age. Please don't tell me the ice age was caused by cavemen. Climate change has always been around and it will continue to be with us. It is a natural process.


Sat, Jan 19, 2013 : 2:01 p.m.

Well, there was the little ice age back in the late 1800s. Not a good scenario either.


Sat, Jan 19, 2013 : 4:58 a.m.

Except when it happens at 50000000000000000000000000 times the natural rate.


Fri, Jan 18, 2013 : 11:41 p.m.

Yes, indeed.

Soulful Adrenaline

Fri, Jan 18, 2013 : 9:28 p.m.

Buckeyes are hardy to zone 3; we're zone 4-6.


Sat, Jan 19, 2013 : 2 p.m.

So are you saying the Buck stops here?


Fri, Jan 18, 2013 : 10:17 p.m.

Have one in my yard, so somehow it didn't get the note that it's not supposed to survive in Michigan...

Soulful Adrenaline

Fri, Jan 18, 2013 : 10:10 p.m.

Hardy to zone 3 to 7 meaning up to Ontario and down to Georgia. So they've already been here. Similar to the the Theists and Atheists that always want you to hear them.


Fri, Jan 18, 2013 : 9:52 p.m.

"Hey, you stupid Buckeye trees - don't you know you can't grow here, this here is a zone 4!" -Soulful Adrenaline

Bob W

Fri, Jan 18, 2013 : 9:11 p.m.

Oh, oh, Canada here I come. ;o)


Fri, Jan 18, 2013 : 8:49 p.m.

Buckeyes in Ann Arbor. Best reason yet to stop climate change. All kidding aside. I was up at Mission Point last summer and you could walk 600 yards out from the light house and not get your feet wet. Australia recently added two new colors to their temperature map (pink and purple) so they can show temperatures up to 150 degrees F. Are there natural causes, yes. Has the human population made it worse. Absolutely!

Craig Lounsbury

Sat, Jan 19, 2013 : noon

Sylvanman, you seem to be using an either or argument. Either man is changing climate or its natural. I submit its a bit of both.


Sat, Jan 19, 2013 : 2:24 a.m.

Lake levels are down 23 inches and the drought has been going on for over 10 years. Here's an article from Fox last fall that might encourage you to read more..... It's pretty bad up there.


Sat, Jan 19, 2013 : 1:46 a.m.

Not that Sylvanman deserves a response to his ridiculous claim that volcanic eruptions produce much mroe CO2 than human activity, but here is one anyway: In a nutshell, humans produce over 100x more CO2 than all volcanoes combined.


Sat, Jan 19, 2013 : midnight

I was up there the summer before and the water was the highest in years. We have had droughts before.


Fri, Jan 18, 2013 : 10:28 p.m.

Humans have made things worse according to? How many years of man's so-called contribution of C02 are equal to the C02 released in a major volcanic eruption? Just asking since you seem to be a climate-scientist. While you are at it, explain the Midevil warming period and the last 10-15 years too while we are at it. How come the Vikings went to Iceland to farm and we are panicing becasue the ice shield is now - allegedly - less than a mile thick? Those darn Vikings and C02 emissions.


Fri, Jan 18, 2013 : 8:44 p.m.

Golly Amy, you really know how to start a panic, by saying buckeyes will invade Ann Arbor due to climate change. Just look at the trouble it causes when they are here once every other year in the fall. Just so everyone doesn't jump on my case that's meant as a joke.

Amy Biolchini

Fri, Jan 18, 2013 : 8:49 p.m.

WalkingJoe, just trying to keep it real :)

Top Cat

Fri, Jan 18, 2013 : 8:44 p.m.

Just as long as the mastodons don't return. They would do a number on my wife's garden. And imagine dodging them on North Territorial Road.


Sat, Jan 19, 2013 : 2 p.m.

Watch Beasts of the Southern Wild and you get Aurochs, escaping from polar ice.

John of Saline

Fri, Jan 18, 2013 : 9:08 p.m.

I think a dwarf mastodon would be a fun pet.


Fri, Jan 18, 2013 : 8:38 p.m.

For an even better information about climate change, read the bible.


Sat, Jan 19, 2013 : 2:01 p.m.

Exactly what does the bible say about climate change? Could you give us a quote?


Sat, Jan 19, 2013 : 7:16 a.m.

You just keep reading Alberta gore's book diagnut .. !! and repeat after me ... I Believe, I Believe .. and everything will be OK .. lol


Fri, Jan 18, 2013 : 10:02 p.m.

The Bible is a fictional book, how would it be relevant towards science and climate change?

Soulful Adrenaline

Fri, Jan 18, 2013 : 9:32 p.m.

"Hey everyone, Look, It's our God, Richard Dawkins, He wants you all to downvote nekum1!"

Soulful Adrenaline

Fri, Jan 18, 2013 : 9:29 p.m.

Good one nekm1.


Fri, Jan 18, 2013 : 8:51 p.m.

And which translation of this fiction novel would you like us to refer to?

Ivor Ivorsen

Fri, Jan 18, 2013 : 8:43 p.m.

Right? You forgot to mention it's a great source too for physics, biology, and astronomy.

Amy Biolchini

Fri, Jan 18, 2013 : 8:34 p.m.

For more information on how different tree species will be affected by climate change, the U.S. Forest Service has a comprehensive Climate Change Tree Atlas: