Michigan Climate Change Initiative Nets $4.2 Million Federal Grant

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Thomas Dietz (view larger image)

A joint initiative between Michigan State University and the University of Michigan to improve the nation’s ability to adapt to climate variability and change earned a $4.2 million grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

The initiative was one of six new regional programs that earned grants from NOAA totaling $23.6 million over five years.

The grant will support the new Great Lakes Regional Integrated Sciences and Assessments Center, which will use the money to help communities and organizations in the Great Lakes region understand and adapt to a changing climate.

“The economy of the Great Lakes region and the well-being of its residents will be greatly affected by regional and local changes to the climate,” said Thomas Dietz, MABR scientist and MSU assistant vice president for environmental research. “Climate change is likely to reduce lake levels, shift patterns of precipitation and alter average seasonal temperatures. GLISA will bring together leading researchers to better understand these changes and develop strategies to adapt to them.”

Already, the region has seen a 2-degree increase in the annual average temperature since 1980, less ice cover on lakes, more lake effect snow and the onset of spring warming about one week earlier. Future changes could include lower lake levels, longer growing seasons and more heat waves, he added.

GLISA will focus on the watersheds of Lake Huron and Lake Erie, but the center’s reach will encompass the broader Great Lakes basin. Issues central to GLISA’s mission will be agriculture, watershed management and natural resources-based recreation and tourism, which are interconnected through issues of water quality and quantity.

Ignoring climate change could be quite costly. For example, sewers, bridges and flood control structures are designed according to the amount of rainfall and flooding that have occurred in the last 100 years, said Donald Scavia, director of the U-M’s Graham Environmental Sustainability Institute.

“If we simply use those historical figures as a basis for our future plans,” he said, “we are almost certainly building them incorrectly and will pay the consequences of inadequate design when they fail.”

GLISA will actively engage other research institutions, such as Ohio State University, which will be a part of GLISA, as well as the other Regional Integrated Science and Assessment Centers funded by NOAA, he added.

NOAA has supported regional teams, like GLISA, for more than 15 years. And the RISA program will be a core component of NOAA’s Climate Service, according to a Commerce Department news release.


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