Large crowd attends address on climate change at Eagle Bluff

CHARLIE WARNER/NEWS LEADER Dr. Mark Seeley was the featured speaker at Eagle Bluff’s Dinner on the Bluff event this past Saturday evening.
By : 
Charlie Warner
News Leader

“Don’t allow our leaders to be dismissive. Right here in Minnesota, we are experiencing some of the most drastic changes in our weather of anywhere in the country,” warned Dr. Mark Seeley, emeritus professor of climatology at the University of Minnesota.

Seeley was the featured speaker at Eagle Bluff’s Dinner on the Bluff event this past Saturday, Feb. 2. Dr. Seeley spoke about how the drastic changes in the weather patterns affect myriad of aspects of a person’s daily life.

Seeley told the group of about 125 that Minnesota’s growing season (the period from the last frost in the spring to the first frost in the fall) has increased by nine to 17 days over the past few decades.

Moorhead tied with Death Valley for the highest heat index (calculated by combining the air temperature and the dew point) ever recorded in the United States on July 19 and 20, 2011, at 134 degrees. Minnesota is experiencing 35 times more freeze-thaw cycles now during the winter months than decades ago, which, according to the Minnesota Department of Transportation, causes much more damage to roads.

The milder climate has made it possible to grow more zone four and zone five plants that used to perish years ago when the growing season was shorter and colder.

More insects survive because of the warmer winters, which has a major impact on the agriculture industry.

The extreme spikes in heat indexes during the summer months result in additional loss of livestock for poultry and dairy farmers in Minnesota.

Warm summer nights are much more prevalent than in years past. “Things just don’t cool off at night in the summer like they used to,” he noted.

Much of Minnesota receives 10 to 20 percent more precipitation annually than 50 years ago. And southeast Minnesota has seen a 30 percent increase in annual precipitation. Seeley pointed out that Harmony set an all-time state record for annual precipitation in 2018 with 60.2 inches and several reporting stations in Houston County were right behind with 58 inches.

The drastic increase in precipitation has increased soil erosion and forced copious amounts of money to be spent on flood mitigation. The drastic weather changes have been responsible for a 257 percent increase in property insurance premiums.

Seeley explained these trends suggest that the climate will continue to change. “This is important for us to understand if we are to adapt effectively, as these changes impact many aspects of our lives,” he said.

Seeley is a former University of Minnesota Extension climatologist and professor in the Department of Soil, Water and Climate. He is a popular speaker and has served as a weekly commentator on Minnesota Public Radio’s Morning Edition news program and written the weekly news-blog “Minnesota Weather Talk” since 1992.

Dinner on the Bluff is sponsored in part by the Sustainable Food and Farming degree program at Minnesota State College Southeast – Winona and Red Wing.

Eagle Bluff is a private, nonprofit residential environmental learning center, founded in 1978. It provides accredited environmental education programs and outdoor adventures near Lanesboro. 

Dinner on the Bluff, now in its 15th year, is designed to give thought-leaders and experts in the environmental field the opportunity to discuss public issues with the broader Eagle Bluff community.