What awaits the Midland region with climate change?

If older Midlanders, or Michiganders in general, have wondered if it’s been raining harder lately, Midland’s Peter Sinclair said it wasn’t your memory that was faulty.

Cycles of dry heat and mega rain dumps await Midland in the future if current climate trends continue, Sinclair explained. As the climate changes, he thinks Midland should continue to adapt and talk more about ways to mitigate its harms.

A videographer who studies energy and the environment, Sinclair gained notoriety in the scientific world with his YouTube series, “Climate Denial Crock of the Week.” He also produces videos for Yale University and has participated in fieldwork with scientists in places around the world severely affected by climate change such as Florida and Greenland.

Speaking of climate change, Sinclair said certain gases in the atmosphere trap heat, causing weather and temperature changes. Scientists have known about this warming since at least the 1950s, when the US military wanted to know the radiative profiles of gases in the atmosphere to see how it affected its heat-seeking missiles.

“The inescapable conclusion was that there are gases that trap heat,” Sinclair said. “We’re adding more, it’s going to be warmer and the predictions made 40 years ago have worn off to an incredible degree of accuracy.”

However, it’s a bit more complicated than simply warming temperatures.

As more heat and moisture build up in the atmosphere, Sinclair explained, more fuel is given to extreme weather events like thunderstorms, tornadoes, hurricanes, heat waves and droughts.

What does this mean to you? In general, a dry space is likely to get drier. A humid place will become more humid.

The Midwest, in particular, can expect to experience more “weather whiplash.” That means the region will experience extreme swings between hot and cold temperatures and wet and dry weather, Sinclair said.

Nationally, weather systems will also become more dramatic. This means weather conditions that will have a negative effect on Michigan. For example, when the western parts of the United States and Canada experienced record waves in the summer of 2021, the Detroit metro area experienced destructive flooding. These patterns were part of the same weather system,” Sinclair said.

“Over the course of a week, these people got cooked and we drowned,” Sinclair said. “It’s a perfect example of (what) we see most often: these stalled jet stream patterns. So instead of just a hot day, you have a record-breaking, oppressive week of breaking records. At the same time , in the other part of the country, you have a week of record flooding.

This whiplash effect will also be seen in Midland, with week-long hot dry spells followed by huge rains.

Winter weather will likely become more erratic in the Midland region. Sinclair, who grew up in Midland, said it started snowing around Christmas and would reliably stay on the ground until around mid-March. Recently, winters have experienced periods of snow and thaw.

However, flooding will continue to be the most destructive effect of climate change in the region, Sinclair said.

Similar to how development has impacted Detroit, the infrastructure that was built and the floodplains established in Midland were based on weather patterns from decades prior to today. As these storms become more frequent and intense, infrastructure in the Midland region may not be able to handle the stress of these weather events, such as dam failures in May 2020.

If Midland continues to add more concrete, create more runoff and degrade buffer wetlands, Sinclair said more flooding will occur.

Although he was thrilled to hear that the City of Midland is putting money into improving sewer lines and storm drainage with its Concept Five Sewer and Wastewater Improvement Plan, he s worried about the future of less wealthy and smaller communities who cannot afford to prepare for these floods. events.

Regarding the region’s response to climate change, Sinclair said the city is currently adapting to the climate changes already present with its sewer plans. He said adaptation at the community level will be a big part of the work needed in the future.

The large local response needed is mitigation of weather effects in the future.

The Midland Business Alliance Infrastructure Advisory Board is a group working on infrastructure and flood resilience. This committee was formed after 2020 when the MBA Board felt it was important to address long-standing flooding issues in the region, address infrastructure challenges and improve resilience to flooding,” said MBA CEO Tony Stamas.

The committee is partnering with Midland County to work with the Corps of Engineers to conduct a study to identify different local solutions to these problems, he said.

In terms of climate change, Stamas said part of building flood resilience is preparing for more frequent storms, such as those that caused flooding in 2017 and 2020. Stamas added that there would have been a flood, even if the dam had not breached.

While the city of Midland will experience the direct effects of climate change, it could also become a place where people can escape it. Sinclair said towns like this in the upper Midwest are becoming “climate havens” for people in other parts of the country exposed to rising sea levels, increased storms and wildfires. forest.

Cities like Midland in the upper Midwest offer many advantages for would-be transplants: relatively low housing costs, good job opportunities, good schools, and rapidly decarbonizing infrastructure. However, he added that these cities should guard against pitfalls, such as urban sprawl.

Farming will also become more difficult with erosion, which will put more pressure on farmers during the growing season, Sinclair said. Warmer winters, runoff from farm and lawn fertilizers and other chemicals could continue to increase algal blooms in the Great Lakes. He said Saginaw Bay would be a hotspot for these flowers.

At the local and individual level, Sinclair said the most important thing to do is talk about climate change and its solutions.

“I hope our communities and our local leaders can focus on these issues,” Sinclair said. “Perhaps more frankly, talk about climate change as a specific component here. I (have been) to city council meetings and I’ve been to Midland (Citizens) Academy and people were talking about some of the issues, but no one was saying the ‘C’ word.