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Minnesota winters are warming faster than nearly every other U.S. state and by the end of the century, they could be 11 degrees warmer and have up to 55 fewer days with snow on the ground, new research from the University of Minnesota predicts

The research, led by Dr. Stefan Liess in the U of M's Department of Soil, Water, and Climate, was published in the journal of Earth and Space Science this month. 

Read more [Dec. 10, 2021]: Minnesota lakes have 2 fewer weeks of ice cover versus 50 years ago. Blame climate change.

Researchers found Minnesota's climate will likely be "significantly different" from what it was like near the end of the 20th century. Among the key points researchers found: 

  • Winter temperatures could rise by 11 degrees by the end of the 21st century.
  • Snow depth could decrease by more than 5 inches, especially in east-central Minnesota
  • The number of days per year with snow cover may decrease by up to 55 days, especially in central Minnesota
  • Precipitation in the spring could increase by more than a half-inch per day over northern Minnesota.
  • Summers, which haven't warmed significantly up to now, could see temperatures rise by 7 degrees by the end of the century. 

“Early awareness and mitigation have the potential to preserve valuable ecosystems for future generations,” Liess said in the news release. “Mitigation and adaptation strategies need to be put in place to address these future changes. These projections would impact multiple important state sectors including agriculture, pest management, water and energy management, forestry, health care (adaptation to heat-related health issues) and tourism.”

Climate experts have said warmer temperatures have already and will continue to impact Minnesota's native plants and trees, damage crops, and can harm Minnesota's lakes and rivers. Less snow and ice coverage in the winter can impact the health of the lakes, while also offering fewer days to ice fish and snowmobile, impacting the tourism industry. More precipitation can lead to flooding that damages crops, homes and businesses, as well as leading to more stormwater runoff that, combined with hotter temperatures, can cause harmful algal blooms in Minnesota's lakes. 

And those are just some of the impacts warmer, wetter weather could have on Minnesota. 

Read more [Aug. 9, 2021]: Here's what the UN's climate report says about Minnesota's future

The U's research, which was funded by the Minnesota Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund, used resources at the Minnesota Supercomputing Institute to look at county-scale model simulations of the climate across the state for the middle and end of the 21st century. 

The data in the U's study includes projections over 6-mile by 6-mile areas, which is "much finer than most global climate models." This provides more detailed information on how temperatures and precipitation are expected to change "at any location in the state," the release said. Having detailed climate information over smaller areas, including Minnesota's individual watersheds and counties, will help leaders make informed decisions for their region. 

Researchers believe data will "influence regional decision-making as communities across Minnesota gain the ability to use this published data for climate adaptation action plans."

Next up for researchers is projecting future crop yields and analyzing data related to how frequently areas see extreme climate events. Researchers also plan to create projections for 3-mile by 3-mile areas.

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