The ag-dependent High Plains, an area that includes Nebraska, is likely to see dramatic changes in weather the rest of this century as a result of the warming climate, according to the U.S. Global Change Research Program.
The High Plains Regional Climate Center, housed at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, has put together a five-page explanation of the changes thus far and the latest science on what is likely to happen in the six-state area covered by the High Plains center.
Those states are North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Wyoming and Colorado.
The High Plains guide is being featured by Nebraska conservation and environmental groups as part of two public education sessions this month. Most of the analysis in the guide comes from the U.S. Global Change program.
The first forum is scheduled for Saturday in Lincoln and the second Oct. 20 in Omaha.
The average temperature in the High Plains has increased 1.7 degrees over the past 115 years, according to the High Plains center. Based on a composite of climate models, the U.S. climate research program projects at least another 8-degree increase by 2090.
Climate scientists calculate that there is a 90 percent probability that the temperature increase of the past 60 years is a result of human activity. The effect on Earth has been similar to rolling up car windows on a summer day. Solar heat is being trapped inside the Earth's atmosphere, just as the sun's heat would be trapped inside a closed car.
Temperature trends so far have been consistent with what climate change experts say will happen — the most noticeable effects are being felt in the winter and in northern climates.
North Dakota, for example, has seen its statewide winter temperature increase 5 degrees since 1895, while Nebraska and Kansas have seen about a 2-degree increase.
Summer temperatures in North Dakota have increased on average 1.8 degrees during that same period, while in Kansas and Nebraska, the increase has been about 0.7 degrees.
As the climate warms, experts project that water resources in the region will be stressed, extreme weather will become more frequent and ecosystems will undergo turmoil as species shift territories and invasive species gain a foothold.
Speakers at the forums include representatives of the High Plains Regional Climate Center, the UNL School of Natural Resources, the University of Nebraska Medical Center's College of Public Health and the UNL Department of Agronomy and Horticulture.
Sponsoring organizations are the Nebraska League of Conservation Voters, the Izaak Walton League, Physicians for Social Responsibility and the Missouri Valley group of the Sierra Club.
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High Plains public education forums
Lincoln: 9 a.m. to noon Saturday, Hardin Hall Auditorium, University of Nebraska-Lincoln's East Campus, 33rd and Holdredge Streets
Omaha: 9 a.m. to noon Oct. 20, First United Methodist Church, 69th and Cass Streets