Regional Climate Projections

Background Information

Changes to the global climate system influence the local and regional climate and weather in the Great Lakes region. However, Changes to the global climate system influence the local and regional climate and weather in the Great Lakes region. In our region, many of the impacts of climate change are likely to be indirect results of more serious climatic impacts on people elsewhere, including migration, higher prices for agricultural products (including biofuels), geopolitical and economic instability, and demand for the Great Lakes’ fresh water. However, they are not necessarily the same in magnitude, and may vary seasonally and over time.

Without swift mitigation, likely climatic changes in the Great Lakes region over the next 100 years include hotter summers, milder winters, and changes in rainfall frequency and intensity. A likely analogy is for Wisconsin to have the summertime climate of present-day Arkansas and the winter season of present-day Iowa. If those changes occur, they will lead to changes in the character of the region. Likely impacts include changes in the plants and animal species that live in Wisconsin, less complex ecosystems, and greater incidence of drought and flooding, in addition to reduction in wintertime outdoor recreational activities. However, there may also be positive impacts, such as a longer growing season. These impacts are found by scientists combining regional climate change projections with what is known about how the plants, animals, and hydrology of our region respond to changes in the ambient conditions and ecosystems in which they live.

Suggested Activities

  1. Air Density and Temperature
  2. Calculate Your Food Carbon Footprint
  3. Human Activity and Climate Change
  4. Influence of Carbon Dioxide on Algae Growth
  5. Soils and Climate Change
  6. Sunlight and Evaporation
  7. What is the Greenhouse Effect?

Intended Learning Outcomes

  • Explain how apparently small changes in global mean climate in the past have led to significant changes in Great Lakes climate, such as the most recent ice age, the Wisconsin glaciation
  • Determine whether historical observations of local temperature are directly correlated with historical records of global mean temperature
  • Compare global climate predictions and “downscaled” Wisconsin climate predictions for the next 100 years
  • List key global impacts including coral bleaching, ocean acidification, drought/floods, disease, sea level rise, crop failure
  • Relate impacts of global climate change to daily activities

Applicable Standards


Earth and Space Science

  • E.8.1 Using the science themes, explain and predict changes in major features of land, water, and atmospheric systems
  • E.8.3 Using the science themes during the process of investigation, describe climate, weather, ocean currents, soil movements and changes in the forces acting on the earth
  • E.12.4 Analyze* the benefits, costs, and limitations of past, present, and projected use of resources and technology and explain* the consequences to the environment

Life and Environmental Science

  • F.8.7 Understand that an organism’s behavior evolves through adaptation to its environment
  • F.8.9 Explain how some of the changes on the earth are contributing to changes in the balance of life and affecting the survival or population growth of certain species
  • F.8.10 Project how current trends in human resource use and population growth will influence the natural environment, and show how current policies affect those trends.

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