The virtual seminar on Monday April 19 was a sort of dual program, with participants benefiting from the expertise of Paul Douglas, a seasoned meteorologist, alongside his friend and peer, Dr Mark Seeley, a climatologist formerly at the University of Minnesota. The two explored the complex relationship between weather and climate during their presentation “The Climate Conundrum: Threats and Opportunities for the Woods of Northern Minnesota”.
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During the virtual seminar, Douglas and Seeley said they will present the micro and macro explanations of how climate change is transforming the world as a whole, as well as here in the Brainerd Lakes region. The pair discussed the multiple signs of climate change in the Lake District, how it is expected to affect residents in the years to come, as well as possibilities to address any issues that may arise.
Meteorologist Paul Douglas
So why did a snowfall in mid-April fit so well with a climate change seminar? Because, Seeley and Douglas explained, as northern Minnesota becomes progressively warmer, with visible changes in its natural ecosystems, climate change manifests itself in patterns of unusual, unpredictable and extreme weather phenomena that were not. present here 30, 50 or 100 years ago. . Yes, this can include freezing temperatures during generally warm times of the year.
For example, just ask a snowmobile enthusiast, observed Douglas. No scientific skepticism can change the fact that annual snowfall becomes more and more sporadic and incompatible with each passing winter, and that doesn’t bode well for an outdoor pastime that needs a foundation. strong and well-established packed snow to operate. . These changes are also manifested in what people consider newsworthy these days.
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“Statewide, since the 1970s, we’ve been on a downward slope,” said Douglas. “It’s still below zero, but we don’t have the intensity or frequency of the below zero troughs that we had decades ago. Not so long ago, regularly, even in the Twin Cities, the air temperature was 25-30 degrees cooler. Now it’s going below zero and it’s noteworthy. News stations lead with this.
Dr. Mark Seeley, climatologist at the University of Minnesota, gives a presentation on Monday on the effect of climate change on Brainerd at Central Lakes College. Zach Kayser / Brainerd Dispatch
It is becoming increasingly difficult to predict how weather conditions will emerge, Douglas noted, while Seeley observed that central Minnesota is experiencing a paradigm shift when it comes to the trees, plants and animals that thrive on the better here. The short version? Generally speaking, these organisms generally favored climates that were notably more temperate than Minnesota historically has been. Over time, the distinction of the Upper Midwest as “American Siberia” becomes increasingly tenuous.
Although, Seeley later noted, as Minnesota’s complexion changes rapidly, it may still be a preferable environment in many areas of the south and southwest, where volatile weather and increasingly arid conditions. become looming problems.
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Since the 1970s, the state’s coldest annual temperatures have warmed by about 12 degrees, Seeley said, while more than 30 to 40 percent of the country has experienced extreme drought, extreme flooding or other extreme weather conditions in the past year. Back in the days when bell bottom jeans were all the rage, Seeley said, that figure was around 10 to 15 percent per year. These extreme weather patterns manifest themselves in the form of floods, tornadoes, heat waves, worsening polar vortices, severe thunderstorms, hailstorms, blizzards, droughts and just about everything else.
The discussion took some political angles and Douglas – a self-proclaimed and devoutly religious conservative – noted that he made it his mission to challenge denial of science, especially the one that arises among conservatives and those at religious inclination. This skepticism, he said, is totally unwarranted. It is baseless in the face of mountains of scientific evidence. Likewise, said Douglas, the Bible calls people to be good stewards of the world, and protecting the natural environment fits that philosophy like a glove.
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“I think we only see the tip of the iceberg as far as what’s to come,” said Douglas, who also expressed optimism about the booming green energy industries and the profitability of electric vehicles as signs that climate change action is not only necessary, but affordable, practical and even practical. “Every threat is an opportunity. We should be debating solutions – conservative solutions, liberal solutions, centrist solutions. Let’s not debate the science, let’s discuss the solutions. “
In his own presentation, Seeley noted that different schools of thought have made it difficult to put people on the same page in terms of understanding climate change and its influence in the world at large. Climate change is real, he said, the evidence confirms this time and time again. So the question is not whether this is a problem, he said, the question is what are we doing about it.
“We have differences or disparities in emotions, especially how we view risk,” Seeley said. “Ethics is another very important disparity in terms of what we use for our frame of reference, in terms of ethics, and looking at that at the individual level, at the community level or at a higher level. And then of course our own policy. … These should not be ignored, in my opinion, they should be acknowledged, because these are disparities that make it difficult for us to talk to each other.