Geography/Environmental Studies 339

Wisconsin Impacts and Adaptation Options

Learning Objectives

By completing this chapter, you will:

  1. Be able to describe the changes in precipitation and temperature in Wisconsin that have occurred over the past 70 years;
  2. Be able to describe the predicted changes in precipitation and temperature in Wisconsin to the mid century;
  3. Investigate the effect of these changes on one of four issues important to the state: biodiversity, agriculture, human health or water resources/stormwater; and
  4. Outline the strategies that can be taken by state government, local government, and civil society to reduce negative impacts on the issue assigned to you.

So far, you have learned how climate change will affect distant places like Bangladesh. But what are the specific impacts expected in Wisconsin?  In this chapter, we turn to the effect of climate change on Wisconsin and strategies to adapt to the changes that we have experienced and are likely to experience over the next 40 years.  We will start by first reviewing changes in precipitation and temperature that we have experienced and what is predicted we will experience over the next forty years. We then turn to how these changes are expected to affect the state’s biodiversity, agriculture, human health and water resources.  Each of you will be assigned to investigate one of these important issue areas by using the links supplied in this chapter. These links will also provide ideas of how we can reduce these impacts or adapt  or reduce our vulnerability to them. You will be expected to fully investigate your topic area prior to class when you will be tasked in small groups to develop an analysis of how climate changes in Wisconsin will affect the state’s biodiversity, agriculture, human health and water resources with  adaptation recommendations  to a state panel. You will be the only member of your group to have investigated your assigned topic area so come prepared because your group will depend on you!

Changes in Wisconsin’s Climate

Three key climate parameters affecting ecology, economy and human health in Wisconsin are temperature, precipitation, and season length.  A great resource is the website of the Wisconsin Initiative for Climate Change Impacts (WICCI) that was developed by a range of climate change experts here in Wisconsin with many of them faculty or staff here at University of Wisconsin-Madison.  Start with this overview video, considering the following questions as you watch:

  1. How have climate factors like temperature, precipitation and season-length changed in Wisconsin?
  2. How are they predicted to change into the future?

You now have a good general idea of the trends Wisconsin has already experienced and will undergo in the future.  More detailed information is provided in a series of maps on the WICCI site.  To access these maps, first open the WICCI webpage and then scroll down the bottom portion of the webpage to look at the historical trend maps (1950-2018).  If you like, you can enlarge a map by clicking on it. Please note that “DJF” refers to December, January, February (Winter months), “JJA” refers to June, July, August (Summer months), “SON” refers to September, October November (Fall months) and “MAM” refers to March, April May (Spring months).  Please review these maps and answer the following questions.

Scroll down further to look at climate projections out to the 2041-2060 period. Please review these maps and answer the following questions:



Another nice accessed from the WICCI site is an interactive map that shows proxies for cities’ future climate (in 60 years) based on different climate model predictions. Follow this link.

A new tab should open resembling the image to the right.  For type of map,  choose “line and climate similarity map”. When you will click on a location on the map or type in a city name,  a line will be drawn to a city that currently has a climate most similar to the projected climate to the city you chose. An area where the current climate is most similar to your city’s  projected climate will also be displayed.  Explore the map by choosing  your hometown(s) and other towns of importance to you.  For each, toggle between the emissions levels to see how changes in GHG emissions will affect the projected future climate of the city chosen.  Complete your journey by choosing Madison, WI to answer the following two questions:

Impacts of Climate Change in Wisconsin

Given the predicted changes in Wisconsin’s climate, it is not hard to imagine how it may influence the state’s biodiversity, agriculture, human health, and water resources. Given what you now know about climate change trends in Wisconsin, answer the following questions about climate change impacts.

Now we are ready to investigate Wisconsin’s climate vulnerabilities and possible actions to reduce these vulnerabilities in more detail.  In this regard, we will focus on four areas: biodiversity, agriculture, human health and water resources.  Find your name in the spreadsheet below to identify your assignment. 

You will need to read/skim and take notes from resources we provide you in preparation for our in-class activity. For most of you,  materials will come from specified working group reports presented on the WICCI site. In class, you will join three others to prepare a presentation to a state panel on climate change that outlines Wisconsin’s  vulnerabilities to climate change in these four areas and proposes a strategy that best addresses these vulnerabilities. The strategy should be clear about the responsibilities of state, local, companies/utilities and citizens for needed actions and how these actions will be funded. The state panel will want to hear your expert opinion on what needs to be done here in Wisconsin, and why. Should we make state government changes? Create local incentives? Provide information to homeowners? In short, what are the best approaches?   Based on your assigned topic, follow the links below to access information resources:

Once you have completed your review (taking notes!) of the resources, you are finished with this chapter.  Please bring your notes and novel adaptation ideas with you to class!

(c) Dennis Franke


Climate Change: Vulnerability, Mitigation, and Adaptation Copyright © by Matt Turner. All Rights Reserved.