Indiana's forests will likely benefit from the state's changing climate in the short term, thanks to longer growing seasons and a greater concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. But drawbacks such as increased spring flooding and summer drought are likely to override those benefits in the long term.
Those were some of the key findings in reports from the Indiana Climate Change Impacts Assessment presented during a community briefing Tuesday at St. Thomas Lutheran Church in Bloomington.
The reports, titled "Indiana's Future Forests" and "Maintaining Indiana's Urban Green Spaces," are part of a larger update to a report the Purdue University Climate Change Research Center put together for former U.S. Sen. Richard Lugar about 10 years ago. Lugar wanted more information on how climate change would affect the state before voting on a bill that would provide economic incentives for reductions in pollutant emissions, said Jeffrey Dukes, director of the climate research center. In the years since that report was released, people have asked for more information.
In response to those requests, the climate research center has put together several reports examining how expected changes in climate will affect specific sectors of the state. Reports titled "Indiana's Past and Future Climate" and "Hoosiers' Health in a Changing Climate" have already been released and are available online at indianaclimate.org. The two reports discussed Tuesday also can be found on the website.
All the reports are a collaboration among researchers at several universities throughout the state, as well as government agencies, such as the U.S. Forest Service. Richard Phillips, an associate professor of biology at Indiana University, summarized the Indiana forest report.
Indiana's average annual temperature has increased 1.2 degrees Fahrenheit over the past century, Dukes said. This rise in temperature is expected to continue and intensify. For perspective, Phillips said climate models show Indiana's summer temperatures in 2050 will be more like those of Arkansas and Tennessee today. By 2100, summers in Indiana will be similar to what Houston, Texas, experiences today.