Our warming world will increasingly stress Nebraska's natural resources as it brings hotter weather to the region, according to a scientist at this week's water symposium at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
If carbon emissions continue at the current pace, Nebraska could see as many as 25 to 30 days more per year with temperatures exceeding 90 degrees, said Shannon McNeeley of the North Central Climate Science Center at Colorado State University.
McNeeley is co-author of a chapter that will be included in the National Climate Assessment Report to Congress. The periodic report updates Congress on the latest climate research.
Nebraska already has seen drought affect its ability to irrigate.
So far, climate change has been a boon to farming, extending the growing season and expanding the regions in which crops are viable. Corn, once a rare sight in the Dakotas, is increasingly being grown there.
However, climate and agriculture experts expect the benefits of these changes to decrease and instead be following by increasingly negative conditions.
McNeeley said water resources in Nebraska will increasingly be stressed by a further lengthening of the growing cycle and alterations in rainfall patterns.
Also affecting irrigation will be a change in the timing of snowmelt from the Rocky Mountains. As snowmelt runs off sooner, the flush of water through the Platte River system may not correspond to irrigation needs.
An additional problem: societal resources probably won't be nimble enough and cohesive enough to provide farmers and ranchers with the help they're accustomed to getting.
These weakened fundamentals already are obvious in the national arena: lack of money, lack of leadership, fragmented lines of authority, political polarization and lack of confidence in science.
McNeeley spoke at a symposium on the likely effects of climate change on the Great Plains. It was followed by a Water Law Conference.
The events were cosponsored by the Nebraska Water Center, part of the Robert B. Daugherty Water for Food Institute at UNL; the College of Law; the Natural Resources and Environmental Law Section of the Nebraska State Bar Association; and the U.S. Geological Survey's Nebraska Water Science Center.
For more information on the National Climate Assessment: http://www.globalchange.gov/what-we-do/assessment
For more on McNeeley: http://revampclimate.colostate.edu/people
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