Michigan’s precipitation patterns are changing, and though it feels contradictory, the state is seeing both more heavy rainfall events and more frequent droughts. Extreme rainfall events can lead to flooding, which damages critical infrastructure that cities and towns rely on, threatens public safety in countless ways, and harms agricultural practices. Meanwhile, droughts can limit the water that is available to homes and businesses, can also harm agriculture operations, and can hurt ecosystems that provide environmental and recreational and economic benefits.

The intensity of future droughts is projected to keep increasing, even as precipitation increases. Rising temperatures will increase evaporation rates and the rate of soil moisture loss. Thus, summer droughts, a natural part of Michigan’s climate, are likely to be more intense in the future.

Michigan’s economy and identity are closely tied to the Great Lakes, and climate change is affecting these freshwater resources, causing warmer water temperatures, changes in lake levels, and impacts on aquatic life.

Warmer water temperatures can disrupt fish populations, affect water quality, and contribute to harmful algal blooms. Changes in precipitation patterns and increases in evaporation rates due to rising temperatures is already affecting water levels in the Great Lakes. The impacts on the local environment and economies are hard to overstate.

Warmer winters are shortening the snow and ice seasons, cutting down opportunities for recreational activities like ice fishing, snowmobiling, skiing and snowboarding. Shorter, warmer winters threaten the local economies that depend on these activities.

Small lakes are freezing later and thawing earlier than they have in recorded history, and since the early 1970s, winter ice coverage on the Great Lakes has decreased by 63 percent. lessening recreational opportunities.

The composition of the Michigan’s forests is expected to change as rising temperatures drive habitats for many tree species northward. The role of the region’s forests as a net absorber of carbon is at risk from disruptions to forest ecosystems, in part due to climate change. Heat stress is impacting some of Michigan’s unique tree species and forests, and there is an increase in damaging insect species moving north. These factors are similar to an alarming trend seen across the country and especially out west. Tens of millions of trees have died in the Rocky Mountains over the past 15 years as a result of insects, wildfires, and stress from heat and drought.


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