Illinois climate change assessment shows increased trend of warmer, wetter weather


Illinois climate change assessment shows increased trend of warmer, wetter weather

A new assessment of the impacts of climate change in Illinois shows an ongoing trend of warmer and wetter conditions in the state which pose challenges to agriculture.

Co-author and former Illinois State Climatologist Jim Angel tells Brownfield temperatures are increasing which is especially evident with the recent mild winters, and heavy rain events are becoming more common.

“In fact, our precipitation has increased about 10-15% in the last century, so the real problem is these heavy rain events cause flooding, soil erosion and a whole host of water quality issues.”

With these trends expected to continue, Angel predicts more weather-related challenges for farmers. By mid-century he expects significantly more days reaching 95-100 degrees which could negatively impact livestock, farm workers and corn fertilization.

“Soybeans are maybe a little tougher in the heat than corn. They also get a little bit of benefit from the increased CO2 levels expected by mid to late century, but even then, there are still increased challenges in terms of yield.”

He says the changing weather conditions may mean Illinois cannot produce certain varieties of specialty crops as readily, but could also allow new varieties to be grown in the state.

The report highlights the need for further research to better understand complex plant responses to combined stressors like increased CO2 and summer drought in order to develop plant traits and adaptive management practices for later in the century.

Nearly 50 authors contributed to the assessment including representatives from University of Illinois, the Prairie Research Institute, The Nature Conservancy and others.

Interview with Jim Angel