Farmers in the Great Plains are accustomed to changes in the weather, but global warming is causing greater extremes. According to the National Climate Assessment, average temperatures in the region are expected to increase about three degrees Fahrenheit within the next fifty years.

It doesn’t sound like much, but Mark Shafer, a climatologist with the Oklahoma Climate Survey, says the changes are already noticeable. Warmer winters in the north have caused flooding, while heat in the south has dried out the soil.

Shafer: “When we get year after year that certain crops are having trouble producing or cattle have to be moved, those kind of things really stress the agriculture industry.”

Farmers in the Northern Plains may not be dealing with drought, but they are confronting warmer winters. In Montana, some have changed pest management practices.

Shafer: “The pests aren’t getting killed off by the cold weather the way they used to and they’re able to expand further northward.”

Shafer cautions that the region is going to face even greater extremes in the future, so he says the agriculture industry needs to consider how to adapt and what crops will grow best where.

Reporting credit: ChavoBart Digital Media.
Photo: Copyright protected.

More Resources
Great Plains Chapter, 2014 National Climate Assessment
Full Report, 2014 National Climate Assessment

Bud Ward

Bud Ward is Editor of Yale Climate Connections. He started his environmental journalism career in 1974. He later served as Assistant Director of the U.S. Congress's National Commission on Air Quality,...