Extreme heat will make the biggest impact on northeast Indiana from climate change by 2050, a new statewide study predicts.
Heavy rains also will increase, but only slightly in this region, according to Indiana University’s Environmental Resilience Institute,
The new Hoosier Resilience Index offers detailed outlooks for every Indiana county and community. It aims to help Hoosiers understand the local impacts of a global crisis.
The number of days each year with extreme heat could increase by three or four times in our area by 2050, according to the report.
The study defines an extreme heat as a day when high temperatures exceed 90 and/or a night that stays 68 degrees or higher.
Right now, our four northeast-corner counties of Indiana experience an average of 16-26 extreme heat days each year.
Even if the world’s nations do an effective job of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, extreme heat days are likely to triple in three of our four counties. The study predicts they would increase to an average between 52-64 hot days per year.
If nations do little or nothing to reduce greenhouse gases, northeast Indiana grows even hotter by 2050. The number of extreme heat days would increase to between 66-76 per year.
Northeast Indiana would see a lesser impact from heavy rains.
The study defines an extreme precipitation event as a day with 2 inches or more of rain.
Currently, our area experiences between 9-13 extreme precipitation days per decade — roughly one per year.
With effective control of greenhouse gas emissions, our outlook could change slightly to between 9-14 extreme precipitation days each decade by 2050. With little or no control, the forecast rises to 10-15 events per decade.
The study is not predicting precisely how hot or wet it could get on those extra extreme days. It might be much hotter than 90 or much wetter than 2 inches.
One goal of the study is to help local governments start planning for problems that many have not begun to discuss.
Leaders of counties, cities and towns may be thinking of climate change as a crisis for state and national leaders to handle.
As part of the study, local government leaders can complete an online questionnaire to learn how they can improve their readiness for change.
At least one local official is taking climate change seriously. A news release about the Hoosier Resilience Index includes comments from Kenneth Hughes, plan director for Noble County.
“As our environment changes and our relationship to it evolves, we know that we have to be ready,” Hughes said. “By both learning about how the environment is changing and examining our plans for these drastic changes, Noble County is actively preparing for change. The Index is going to help us examine our plans and determine next steps based on our risk. Local governments across the state have been working on strengthening infrastructure and building more resiliently and this tool helps provide support for these efforts.”
What will it mean if northeast Indiana has three to four times as many extreme heat events each year?
Extreme heat could affect agriculture and outdoor activities. It could strain our electrical grid and create a need for cooling shelters. We’ll be better off to plan for that in advance.
We also should think about reducing our impact on the climate.
We can act personally by finding ways to reduce unnecessary use of energy in our own lives.
On a broader scale, we can ask our elected representatives in local, state and national government what they’re doing to get ready for climate change — and how they plan to keep it as controlled as possible.