<HEAR THE WATER SPEAK: NIBI

INVESTIGATE THE SCIENCE

As both an amplifier of global warming and a habitat, water is affected by climate change. Warming temperatures influence the amount of water vapor in the atmosphere which in turn warms temperatures.  

Climate change means changes for water resources and aquatic habitats. Warming is affecting the global water cycle and these changes are percolating through our local watersheds . Snowpacks are shrinking and stream temperatures will likely increase. Precipitation patterns may change. Floods, droughts, and severe weather disturbances may become more common. 

Now that you have learned about the importance of water to the Lake Superior Ojibwe people and explored place-based evidence of how climate change is affecting cultural and economic practices that rely on water, it is time investigate what scientific research is telling us about how the climate is changing.  Do culture and science agree that climate change is affecting water?  

How could climate change impacts on water affect cultural, environmental, and economic practices you enjoy?  Use the Climate Change Toolkit to investigate the science! Use the Investigate the Science Activity Guide to focus your explorations.

CLIMATE CHANGE TOOLKIT

Browse this toolkit to find maps showing historic and projected climate trends for key environment variables that will affect water resources. Choose the geographical area you are interested in investigating and explore the climate change maps and tools.
Wisconsin

Wisconsin’s Climate Change Historic Trends and Future Projections

Wisconsin’s Climate Change Historic Trends and Future Projections
This slide show tool lets you to investigate actual changes in climate variables that have already occurred between 1950-2006, and explore how these variables are expected to change based on climate models from 1980-2055.

Start by establishing a “baseline” for your investigations by researching actual changes in climate that have been documented by reviewing each of the “historic trends”.

Next compare at the “future projections” for each of the environmental variables. “Projected climate changes” on these maps are based on the A1B climate change scenario where in the future our society will continue to use fossil fuels at about the same rate as we do today.

How has Wisconsin’s climate changed in the past?

CLUE: From 1950 to 2006, the average annual temperature in Wisconsin warmed about 1.1 degrees F. The northwestern part of Wisconsin warmed a bit more than the rest of the state. Winter temperatures have risen most significantly. Statewide, winter temperatures have increased 2.5°F. In northwestern Wisconsin the increase has been even greater at 3.5-4.5°F. Summer and autumn temperatures in Wisconsin have changed the least.

Precipitation patterns have also changed. Wisconsin as a whole has become wetter. From 1950 to 2006, Wisconsin’s annual precipitation increased by 3.1 inches. Most of the increase has been concentrated in southern and western Wisconsin. By the end of this 57-year period, the increase in this part of Wisconsin has ranged from + 3 to +7 inches per year. Northern Wisconsin has become drier, annually averaging 1-2 inches less precipitation over that period.

Wisconsin Climate Change Time Traveler- What's the Future for Wisconsin?

Wisconsin Climate Change Time Traveler- What's the Future for Wisconsin?
The Wisconsin Climate Time Traveler Mapping Tool lets you manipulate climate change variables, time periods, and a variety of climate “scenarios” to investigate climate impacts under these climate futures:
  • A2 Scenario- This model is characterized by a future with intensive fossil fuel use and high carbon emissions, higher than today’s rate.
  • A1B Scenario- This model uses a middle level rate of fossil fuel use where future carbon emissions remain similar to what we are experiencing today.
  • B1 Scenario- This model is characterized by a future with lower fossil fuel use and lower carbon emissions than today’s rates. 
Using this tool, you can explore how climate trends may affect specific climate variables such as temperature, precipitation, temperatures extremes, and days over 90-degrees under each climate scenario.

Scientists have developed over 40 climate change scenarios of what the climate might be like in the future based on possible future levels of greenhouse gas pollution, fossil fuel use, and other driving forces.

What do future projections of climate change suggest for Wisconsin’s environment, economies, and people?

CLUE: Analyze potential climate change impacts under each of these scenarios on the key environmental variables and habitat conditions that are critical to the sustainability of plants, animals that support cultural and economic practices important to our communities.
Ceded Territory of the lake superior ojibwe

INVESTIGATE CEDED TERRITORY CLIMATE CHANGE

The maps in this section were created by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).
Open this section of the Climate Change Toolkit to discover how climate may be changing within the Ceded territories are lands transferred from tribes to the federal covernment by treaty.Ceded Territory of the Lake Superior Ojibwe and Upper Great Lakes.

Investigate maps that show historic climate trends that have been already been documented. Discover how climate variables like temperature and precipitation are projected to change. All climate projection maps are based on the A1B scenario which projects a climate future where the rate of fossil fuel use and carbon emissions remain similar to what we are experiencing today.

By Treaty with the US government, the Ojibwe people retain rights to hunt, fish, and gather in the Ceded Territory. Sustainability of plant and animals are important to maintaining Treaty Rights and Ojibwe cultural practices.

How could climate change affect the sustainability of species that are essential to supporting Treaty Rights and Ojibwe cultural practices? How could these changes in climate affect the cultural practices you enjoy, or people and economies?

TIP: Tip on using NASA Climate Maps
Each NASA climate map uses a different range of variables and colors to show the range of change. Read each map legend carefully to understand the range of variables that each color represents.

NASA historic climate maps and climate project maps cover slightly different time periods than other maps in the toolkit. NASA maps are based on the A2 climate scenario which projects a moderate rate of C02 increase.

HISTORIC CHANGE IN ANNUAL MEAN DAILY TEMPERATURE

PROJECTED CHANGES IN MEAN ANNUAL TEMPERTURE AVERAGE (TAVG)

Average annual mean temperatures across the Ceded Territory are expected to increase between 3-4° F by 2045. Warming is expected throughout the region, but the greatest increase in northern Wisconsin and Minnesota.

Look at the seasonal maps. Across the region, the warming is expected across all seasons, but is projected to be most significant during summer, fall and winter seasons.

Warmer winters mean more precipitation falling as rain or ice rather than snow, and less ice cover on lakes.

How would warming temperatures affect the sustainability of species and cultural activities that depend on cool temperate summers and cold snowy winters?

HISTORIC CHANGE IN ANNUAL PRECIPITATION (1980-2010)

HISTORIC CHANGE IN ANNUAL PRECIPITATION

Recorded trends in precipitation (falling as rain and snow) varied greatly across the Ceded Territory. The northern and western parts of the region tended to be drier, with some counties experiencing a decrease of as much as 6.5-inches in annual precipitation during this period.

Other counties in the south and east received as much as 8- inches more annual precipitation over the same time. Increased precipitation can saturate soils leading to flooding.

Drought is closely tied to precipitation and temperature. Compare this map with the Historic Annual Temperature seasonal maps. Which areas experienced higher temperatures and lower precipitation leading to drought conditions?

CEDED TERRITORY CLIMATE CHANGE TIME TRAVELER

What’s the Ceded Territory’s Climate Future?
Climate Change Projections (1995-2045)

PROJECTED CHANGES IN MEAN ANNUAL TEMPERTURE AVERAGE (TAVG)

Average annual mean temperatures across the Ceded Territory are expected to increase between 3-4° F by 2045. Warming is expected throughout the region, but the greatest increase in northern Wisconsin and Minnesota.

Look at the seasonal maps. Across the region, the warming is expected across all seasons, but is projected to be most significant during summer, fall and winter seasons.

Warmer winters mean more precipitation falling as rain or ice rather than snow, and less ice cover on lakes.

How would warming temperatures affect the sustainability of species and cultural activities that depend on cool temperate summers and cold snowy winters?
PROJECTED CHANGE IN FREQUENCY OF VERY HOT DAYS

By 2045, the frequency of very hot days above 90° F is expected to increase across the region. The greatest change is projected in northwest Wisconsin and northern Minnesota where the frequency of very hot days may increase by 13 days.

Temperature is closely tied to drought. High temperatures causes stress on plants, animals, and people.
PROJECTED CHANGE IN FREQUENCY OF VERY COLD DAYS

Winter is expected to be warmer by mid-century with the frequency of very cold days (below 0° F) decreasing throughout the Ceded Territory. The greatest decrease is projected to occur in northern Wisconsin and northern Minnesota where the frequency of very cold days is expected to decrease by 9 to 11 days.

Cold days are needed for many cultural activities including maple syrup production, ice fishing, snowmobiling, and skiing. The change in the frequency of cold days is projected to be less of an impact in the eastern section of the Ceded Territory.
United States

Climate Variables Affecting Water
(these trends are based on the A1B Scenario)

Temperature

Temperature
Wisconsin is projected to warm by 4-9°F by the middle of this century. Compare this for projected annual temperature change across the Ceded Territory. What is the potential impact of these changes on water resources?  

CLUE: Greater evaporation
A warmer climate means that there is more evaporation of water from both the land and waterbodies into the atmosphere.  

Greater evaporation mean some areas will experience drought, while other deal with extreme precipitation. Warmer temperatures evaporate water from lakes and streams affecting aquatic habitats and community water reservoirs. 

Warmer surface waters:
Warmer air temperatures means warmer lakes and rivers. This will affect the types of fish and plant species that can survive. Brook Trout, walleye and other cold to cool water loving fish species may be replaced by bass and carp that can survive in warmer water.  Warmer water can favor invasive species that tolerate higher temperatures, giving them a competitive edge over native plants and fish that cannot adapt. Toxic organisms, like blue-green algae, thrive in warmer water.

Intense Rainfall & Storm Events

Intense Rainfall & Storm Events
Usually heavy rainfall events of 2 or more inches of rain are recorded about 12 times per decade in Wisconsin. By the mid-21st century, Wisconsin may receive 2-3 times more of these extreme rainfall events per decade, or roughly a 25% increase in their frequency. What is the potential impact of these changes on water resources? 

CLUE: Increase in Intense Rainfall Events. 
A warmer atmosphere can hold more water vapor. A warm atmosphere “juiced up” with water vapor can lead to more intense rainstorms, causing major problems like extreme flooding.  Rainfall during intense storms tends to “run off” the land, rather than soaking in and providing soil moisture to plants.

High volumes of stormwater can flood communities, damage infrastructure like roads, and overwhelm sewage treatment facilities. Storms can disrupt electrical power and comprise community safety.  In coastal areas, storm events cause erosion from intense runoff and high wave action that damage fish and wildlife habitat.

While most of Wisconsin is projected to have an increase in extreme “gusher” rainfall events, Wisconsin’s Lake Superior region is one area expected to have the greatest increase.  Already there is evidence that this trend is occurring with “mega-rain” storm events increasing in frequency. One intense storm on July 11, 2016 produced over 14 inches of rain within the Basin, destroying harbors, roads and rail lines; with lives lost.  Cultural resources, like wild rice beds, were impacted.

Investigate extreme storm events within the Lake Superior Basin: http://www.seagrant.umn.edu/superior/extremes

WARMER WINERS-CHANGING PRECIPITATION

WARMER WINERS-CHANGING PRECIPITATION
Wintertime precipitation is projected to increase by +0.1 to +1.2 inches (+3% to +35%) by the mid-21st century. The average projection among the climate models is a 20% increase in wintertime precipitation across northern Wisconsin. What is the potential impact of this change to water?

CLUE: The projected change in winter precipitation may not seem significant, but pair this map showing projected change in winter temperatures.  What do these projections suggest?

Less Snow, More Rain
Warmer atmosphere means that water vapor that would have fallen as snow during winter months may precipitate as rain.  Climate projections suggest that Wisconsin’s warming will be statewide and the greatest increases during the winter months. , The greatest winter warm-up is projected across northwest Wisconsin, with 8-8.5°F average temperature increase.  

When temperatures are above freezing (32°F), precipitation falls as rain. This means that while more precipitation expected in winter, but it will come as rain or a wintery mix, rather than as snow. Snowfall, snow depth, and the extent of snow across the state are expected to decrease.

What does this mean for communities that rely on winter recreation or winter logging businesses that requires frozen roads for jobs and income?  Snow also provides important habitat can affect the sustainability of plants and animals that rely on snow, such as the American Marten. Warmer winter temperatures mean less ice cover on lakes. This increases winter evaporation and can lower lake levels and affect fish spawning areas. Snow is both a source of moisture and a thermal insulator protecting plant’s root systems during winter months.

Drought

Drought
By 2050, the frequency of very hot 90-degree days in northern Wisconsin is expected to increase from the 5 days per year currently experienced to 12 days per year. The warming is projected to be largest in winter, with projected increases of 5-11°F by the mid-21st century across Wisconsin, with the greatest warming across northwest Wisconsin. What is the potential impact of these changes on water resources?

CLUE: Drought is closely linked to temperature and rainfall amounts. While northern Wisconsin is expected to have more heavy rainfall events, little change in the total amount of summer rain is predicted. But temperatures are projected to be much warmer. Climate models suggest more frequent, localized periods of extreme drought.

Increases in the length and severity of droughts will dry out aquatic habitats like wetlands and bogs.  These habitats service as nursery areas for fish and wildlife, filter sediment and clean water, and provide flood protection. This stresses plants like wild rice and trees such as tamaracks, black spruce and white cedar that thrive on very moist soils. If drying continues, these plants will be replaced by plants and trees of the upland forest.  Amphibians such as the American toad and eastern tiger salamander rely on humidity and moisture in the soil to maintain the water balance in their bodies.

Activity Guide

Is Wisconsin’s Climate Changing?

Establish a “baseline” for your climate investigations. Open the Historic Trends and Future Projections Climate Change Maps in the Toolkit. Analyze the general climate change trends scientists have documented for Wisconsin from 1950 to 2006. These are called “observed” changes because they are based on actual records or observations.

How has Wisconsin's climate changed? List 3 historic trends (such a changes in annual temperature, seasonal temperatures, precipitation) and list the time period over which these changes occurred. 

1.

2.

3.

What Could Affect Water Resources in the Future?

What Could Affect Water Resources in the Future?
Use the Climate Toolkit mapping tools to evaluate how different climate variables may change in the future and how these changes could affect water resources. These are called “projected” changes because they are based on scientific climate models.

Select a geographical area to investigate future climate change. You can choose from Wisconsin, the Ceded Territory, or another state. Write down the area you have selected: 

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If you are investigating Wisconsin climate change, select this Toolkit option and open the Wisconsin Historic Trends and Future Projections mapping tool. Browse the "future projections" maps. Wisconsin future climate projection maps cover a 75-year period between 1980-2055. These projections are based on a scenario where in the future our society will continue to use fossil fuels at about the same rate as we do today. Scientists call this climate model the “A1B” climate change scenario.

If you are investigating climate change in the Ceded Territory, select that Toolkit option. Browse the Ceded Territory Future Projection maps.  Ceded Territory maps project future changes in climate during a 50-year time period from 1995-2045. These projections are based on a future where there is moderate increases in carbon emissions. These maps are based on the “A2” climate change scenario. 

If you are investigating climate change in state that is located outside of the Ojibwe Ceded Territory, select the United States toolkit option. Maps provided show historic temperature change, but not projected changes. Research that state to find out if projected climate change data is available.

Use the table below to record how each of the key environmental variables that affect water resources are projected to change.

                                               Projected                           Impacts to
                                             climate trend                     Water Resources


Temperature

Precipitation

Humidity

Changing Water
Levels

Storms & Wind

Be a Climate Change Time Traveler

Be a Climate Change Time Traveler
Manipulate the Interactive Climate Change Mapping Tool (called "Statistical Downscaling for Wisconsin") to compare and contrast what might happen to Wisconsin’s climate under three different climate futures based on the A2, the A1B, and the B2 Scenarios, over two different time periods from mid-century (1980-2055) and late century (1980-2090). These are called “projected changes” because they are based on climate models. The Mapping Tool also includes “observed” climate changes based on climate trends that have been documented between 1950-2006 to provide baseline information on climate changes that have already occurred.

Analyze potential climate change impacts under each of these scenarios on the environmental variable that are critical to the sustainability of cold and coolwater fish species. How are these variables projected to change under each scenario and each time period? How do these changes compare to “observed historic trends” in climate change that occurred from 1950-2006?

  • Which climate scenario would have the greatest negative impact on water resources and why?
  • What climate change scenario offers the best outcome for maintaining the quality and quantity of water resources and why?
  • What do these models suggest for aquatic habitats and watersheds in the future?

Develop your own hypothesis

Now that you’ve investigated place-based evidence of climate change impacts on water and climate change trends using scientific research, what do you think? Do culture and science agree that climate change is affecting water resources now? Will climate change be affecting water in the future? 

Write down your hypothesis… If climate change is occurring, then how might it affect water? Write down your hypothesis.

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Test IT!

Test IT!
Develop an experiment or investigation of your own to test your hypothesis. Consider what other factors or variables could be causing the results you are observing. 

Here are some ideas of investigations you can conduct to test your hypothesis:


  • Manipulate climate change data by decade to compare how temperatures have changed each decade from 1960-2020. Over what decades and where in Wisconsin have the greatest changes occurred? Now focus on your home watershed. How has the temperature changed in the past? How do you think these changes affected water resources and aquatic habitats? What are the projected changes in temperature in the future?  How might these changes affect your watershed?
  • Be a detective and create a profile describing your watershed, or your favorite river or lake, using the descriptor layers in the Wisconsin Surface Water Viewer. Add any personal reflections or observations about what you are currently happening there. Reflect on how the projected changes in climate change variables might affect the watershed or waterbody and why.
  • Watch On Wisconsin: The Climate Change Effect How does the place-based evidence of climate change shown in the video compare to the projection of how climate change will affect water resources. What can be done to adapt to the climate change impacts on Wisconsin water resources
  • Watch:  A Day Without Water. Do you agree that projected changes in climate change may affect your community’s water supply. What can you do to prepare and protect your water supply?
  • Explore the link between climate change, water, and health. What do projected changes climate variables suggest for your community’s health outcomes
  • Explore climate scenarios using the CREAT Climate Projection Mapper
  • Investigate the Annual Greenhouse Gas Emission Index to compare the warming effect of heat trapping gases since 1990
  • Check out Climate Change, State-by-State. 
    Use this interactive map to see how climate change has affected each state since 1970. 

Does your research support your hypothesis?

Will current or future climate change impact the health of water resources?

List three pieces of evidence you’ve gathered that supports (or does not support) your hypothesis: 

1.

2.

3.

If your research did not support your hypothesis, create a new hypothesis based on your observations and re-test it.

What is Your Conclusion?

What do these climatic changes suggest for “Nibi”, aquatic habitats, and watershed resources?  

How could these same climate change trends affect your lifestyle and cultural practices you enjoy such as recreation, hobbies, foods, or customs?