Projecting Changes in Snow, Lake Ice, and Winter Severity in the Great Lakes Region for Wildlife-Based Adaptation Planning
The goal of this project was to identify how winter severity, snowpack, and lake ice could change through the mid- and late-21st century, and how species such as the white-tailed deer and mallard duck will respond. Because currently available climate data is at too coarse a scale to provide information on future conditions for the Great Lakes, researchers transformed these models from a global-scale to a regional-scale.
Using these models, researchers found that the region could experience substantial warming, reduced lake ice cover, and increased precipitation, with more precipitation falling as rain than snow, among other changes. Snow/ice cover limit foraging by waterfowl, thereby regulating the timing/intensity of migration and their distributions during non-breeding season. Reductions in weather severity could result in delayed autumn-winter migration for dabbling ducks, which would increase foraging pressures on wetlands in the Great Lakes region – highlighting the importance of protecting these wetlands. These changes in migration patterns could also lead to potentially significant economic losses in southern flyway states, as ducks may stay in the Great Lakes region during the winter months. The primary wintertime stressors for deer are air chill and snow depth, with extreme winters triggering population declines.
Changes in wildlife abundance and distribution can incur dramatic ecological, societal, and economic impacts. Warming may support expanded deer populations and overgrazing, while elevating infectious disease threats to deer. Annually in the U.S., 13.4 million people participate in deer and migratory bird hunting, generating $21.5 billion in revenue, with the hunting industry supporting 681,000 jobs.
Predictions of the future distribution of ducks and other wildlife in the region will help guide the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, Ducks Unlimited, and other stakeholders in developing conservation and adaptation strategies for vulnerable species and in mitigating the potential economic losses that might result from changes in species distribution.
Interview with Steve Elbow, Madison's Capital Times, regarding Wisconsin and Great Lakes' climate change and ecological implications, October 2017.
Interview with WORT 89.9FM Madison community radio, regarding Wisconsin and Great Lakes' climate change, impacts, and policy, July 2017.
Website Launch: The weather severity index-based historical mallard migration website has been put online.
News: Secretary Jewell Announces new Wildlife and Climate Studies at the NE CSC. December 18, 2014.
Webinar: A Weather Severity Index for estimating influences of climatic variability on waterfowl populations, waterfowl habitat, and hunter opportunity and demographics. March 12, 2015.
Wisconsin Public Radio, Climate Change Causing Higher Temperatures, More Rain In Wisconsin, Dec 5, 2017.
Dr. Notaro was interviewed by WORT Community Radio, leading to two radio shows in September 2015: Effects of Climate Change on Health and the Great Lakes, and The Science and Effects of Climate Change. In both interviews, Dr. Notaro discussed some of the downscaling projection work under the NE CSC project.
Syracuse Post Standard, “Study: Less lake effect snow, more rain near Great Lakes as climate changes”, December 2014.
UW-Madison Nelson Institute news item, “Nelson study on winter severity among new research funded by Northeast Climate Science Center”, December 2014.
Wildfowl Magazine website, “Read & react: Are duck migration patterns changing?”, October 2014.