Understanding Extreme Climate Events in the North Central U.S.

Science Center Objects

The climate of the North Central U.S. is driven by a combination of factors, including atmospheric circulation patterns, the region’s complex topography which extends from the High Rockies to the Great Plains, and variations in hydrology. Together, these factors determine the sustainability of the region’s ecosystems and the services that they provide communities. In order to understand the v...

The climate of the North Central U.S. is driven by a combination of factors, including atmospheric circulation patterns, the region’s complex topography which extends from the High Rockies to the Great Plains, and variations in hydrology. Together, these factors determine the sustainability of the region’s ecosystems and the services that they provide communities.

 

In order to understand the vulnerability of the region’s ecosystems to change, it is necessary to have reliable projections of future climate conditions. To address this need, researchers first examined past and present variations in climate and assessed the ability of climate models to effectively project future climate conditions for the region. Second, researchers used these climate models to project how the region’s water balance might change. This information was then used to understand potential future changes in ecosystems that are of interest to stakeholders. For example, researchers found that the increased probability of future drought in Iowa would threaten the state’s tallgrass prairies, as 28 plant species could experience a reduction in habitat suitability by 2040.

 

This research helps clarify the trajectory of past, present, and future changes in the region’s climate; identifies specific climate conditions associated with extreme events such as drought; and combines this knowledge to evaluate future conditions of ecosystems in the region. Together, this information can be used to support climate adaptation efforts in the North Central region.