Traverse City’s climate may resemble Philadelphia’s in 60 years, study says

A new study claims that much of Michigan’s climate could be similar to that of Philadelphia in 60 years.

Crop-killing temperature swings, invasive species, harsh rains and water with poorly mixed nutrients are among the global warming threats to the Great Lakes region, scientists say.

The climates of Detroit, Flint, Lansing, Grand Rapids, Saginaw, Traverse City in 60 years could be similar to the current climate of Chester, Pennsylvania near Philadelphia, according to a study by Matt Fitzpatrick of the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science and Robert Dunn of North Carolina State University.

Montreal could be as much as 17 degrees warmer during the winter; Toronto could feel more like New Jersey.

While some of the predicted temperature increases could be on the high side, it’s not absolutely impossible to reach them, said Brent Lofgren, a physical scientist for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory in Ann Arbor.

“Most predictions are between 3 and 4 degrees Fahrenheit, as a global average,” he said. “Even that much of an increase is thought to be a threshold of seriously damaging results.”

The biggest contributor to climate change is carbon dioxide, Lofgren said.

“It’s emitted from the burning of fossil fuels,” he said. “What’s considered the pre-industrial level of carbon dioxide is 280 parts per million and the current number is about 405 parts per million.”

Image: University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science

That’s a big increase over two centuries, he said.

One impact increasing temperatures could have on the Great Lakes region is the overturning of the lake water columns, Lofgren said.

A water column is a conceptual column of water from the surface of the lake to the bottom sediment.

“Historically, it is done in both the fall and the spring. Mixing through the water columns brings nutrients up from the bottom and oxygen down from the top, which is important for biological activity.

“But the prediction is that that’s going to happen earlier in the spring and later in the fall, and in some cases they might actually meet in the middle and overturning will not happen in every year,” he said.

A temperature change of 3 to 4 degrees is also big enough to push back annual events, such as bird migrations and the developmental stages of plants, Lofgren said.

Many of the study’s climate predictions for Michigan anticipate not only warmer weather, but more precipitation.

More precipitation is likely, particularly during the winter and spring, and it’s predicted that a greater share of the precipitation will come in strong downpours, Lofgren said.

“We’re expecting to see more events of too much rain,” he said. “That means increased flooding, that means erosion and runoff of nutrients into the rivers and lakes.”

Drier soil could also result from climate change.

“Bunching more precipitation into very strong events, you’ll get drier spells in between,” Lofgren said.

Climate change has the potential to hit farmers especially hard as Mother Nature directly affects their livelihood.

“The biggest concerns that we have are some of the other effects that come in association with climate change,” said Laura Campbell, the manager of the Agricultural Ecology Department for the Michigan Farm Bureau. “And some of those we’re seeing already.”

The introduction of new invasive species is another major concern.

“We’re worried about getting more of those than we have had in the past, because due to climate change, they can potentially find suitable habitat further and further away from where they had traditionally been,” she said.

Another worry for farmers is an increase in intense rainstorms.

“That’s causing a lot of flooding problems, particularly during those sensitive spring times when we’re trying to get out into the field and trying to fertilize crops,” Campbell said. “If your field is under water, the nutrients are going straight into the river.”

Drier summers are also an area of apprehension, and a lot of farmers are becoming interested in putting in irrigation systems as a backup measure, she said.

Temperatures are another concern, although slightly less so as farmers have dealt with varying temperatures for a long time. The problem lies with dramatic swings in temperature in a short amount of time.

“In 2012, Michigan lost almost its entire cherry and apple crop,” Campbell said. “We had 80 degree temperatures in March and then the weather returned to a more normal pattern, and we had a bunch of frost that killed all of the buds that were starting to emerge on the trees.”

This story is courtesy of Great Lakes Echo, a publication of the Knight Center for Environmental Journalism at Michigan State University.

Facts matter. Trust matters. Journalism matters.

If you learned something from the story you're reading please consider supporting our work. Your donation allows us to keep our Michigan-focused reporting and analysis free and accessible to all. All donations are voluntary, but for as little as $1 you can become a member of Bridge Club and support freedom of the press in Michigan during a crucial election year.

Pay with VISA Pay with MasterCard Pay with American Express Donate now

Comment Form

Add new comment

Dear Reader: We value your thoughts and criticism on the articles, but insist on civility. Criticizing comments or ideas is welcome, but Bridge won’t tolerate comments that are false or defamatory or that demean, personally attack, spread hate or harmful stereotypes. Violating these standards could result in a ban.

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
This question is for testing whether or not you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.


Wed, 03/27/2019 - 9:22am

What a frikin joke. In 60 years the temp "might" look like somewhere else? So in 60 years it might not look like somewhere else, Right? Oh but give us more money now to tell you how bad it might be in 60 to 100 years. Ever notice how 99% of the yahoos that bloviate about climate change 60 years from now can't tell you (and me) what it (climate) will be for the vacation I want to take in 3 years? 2 years? 1 year? Or even for the up coming summer? Go ahead and stop at the next tarot card /fortune teller and get next weeks winning lotto numbers. Same odds of being right. Try Proverbs 3:5 and Proverbs 14:33.

Wed, 03/27/2019 - 9:42am

The fact that people like this vote makes me question the wisdom of democracy...

Wed, 03/27/2019 - 12:23pm

How many of those dire predictions [50 years ago] about species extinction, famines do to a hotter climate, to ocean front communities being overwhelmed rising water levels were wrong, and how much harm would have been created from those failed predictions without the freedom of speech allowing people to speak out and challenge the such claims.
We have had government agencies blindly using those failed predictions to grab for power, much like what socialist dream of, if not for democracy we would be a failing country that would be in a downward spiraling economy of abundance.
The collective 'wisdom' of the 'group' ['wisdom' of democracy] consistently proves smarter than the narrow 'wisdom' of a government 'elite' ['wisdom' of socialism].
There are many reasons for the failure of 'socialism', just one of them is the resistance to diversity of perspectives. The 'true believers' in socialism demand consensus, to the point that they demean and belittle those who have a different view, while democracy flourishes in diversity, where every one can speak our and anyone can hear what they are saying then voice their own views.
The diversity of perspectives on the cause of 'climate change' epitomizes why our representative democracy has allowed our abundance to grow while so many predict imminent end of 'our world' and encourage that abundance to extend to all in our country.

Wed, 03/27/2019 - 9:42am

Do you know the difference between climate and weather?

Scott Roelofs
Wed, 03/27/2019 - 9:45am

This article is such bunk. I live in Traverse City, where today March 27, Grand Traverse Bay is still frozen over as are the inland lakes. The authors of this article should come up and enjoy some ice fishing soon. By late April the ice will be gone.
The authors cited the 2012 March warmup which did indeed happen. They did not mention

Thu, 03/28/2019 - 11:54am

It's called "climate change" for a reason. Ice in Traverse City on any given day does not disprove climate science. Nowhere is anyone saying that there will never be ice and cold in Michigan ever again. You are setting up a straw man argument that no one is using and equating it with very nuanced scientific predictions. They are not the same. If you'd actually read the article incisively, you should know better.

Fri, 03/29/2019 - 4:12pm

I wonder if you considered other nuances in the article. Starting in the title with 'may', do you realize that 'may' has a range of likelihood of happening [you pick a number] just short of zero, no chance ever, and short of it will happen, to define the scientific probability of what 'may' happen.
When the word 'may' interjected into a scientific conversation it is done either to inject a moment of levity, of CYA, or to break up the conversation. If science was forced to create action plans for every 'may' happen all the funds in the world would be spent the first minute of each new year leaving none for anyone to spend on food, or shelter, or clothes.
What is even more disappointing about the article it ignores other possibilities, such as, if CO2 levels were to rise the benefit to plant life including the cherries would flourish [high school biology and photosynthesis].
Nuance is a powerful tool, but if not applied equally it can be a damning one in any conversation.

Dan Lisuk
Wed, 03/27/2019 - 11:09am

Bridge Magazine, c’mon- ridiculously misleading images such as the parched desert scene in this article only serve to support cynical doubt about the accuracy of its contents. Remember the phrase “a picture is worth a thousand words?” With the approach taken here, how do you expect anyone to consider this article an objective presentation? Holy smokes. I’m really disappointed in this magazine, which I consider one of the saner voices in our current political discourse.

m. curran
Wed, 03/27/2019 - 11:35am

Wouldn't more organic farming practices help to mitigate the effects of these challenges, because the soil would not need so many chemical inputs and run-off would result in less pollution?

Roger Rayle
Wed, 03/27/2019 - 2:18pm
Jim tomlinson.
Wed, 03/27/2019 - 4:20pm

More science denier comments.

Kevin Grand
Wed, 03/27/2019 - 5:57pm

"A new study claims that much of Michigan’s climate could be similar to that of Philadelphia in 60 years."


Things have gotten do bad in Philly, that it's beginning to look just like Arizona!

Not that I believe any of the bunk consistently shoveled out by the AGW/climate change/green new deal crowd in the first place.

Thu, 03/28/2019 - 11:56am

Your disbelief will have exactly zero impact on what actually happens. The problem is not only the projected temperature change, but all the associated issues that will come with it, as the article spells out.

Kevin Grand
Fri, 03/29/2019 - 6:28pm

After Climategate and Climategate II (for starters), any objective observer should easily recognize why people aren't believing the global warming chicken littles any longer.

Wed, 03/27/2019 - 8:16pm

Climate Change. It was Global Warming before that. When I was in sixth grade it was acid rain and ozone layer. Maybe we should start a pool on what the next flashy name will be. State of fear! This whole area was covered in ice at one time. It went through quite a warm up back then.. Hmmmmmmm.

Sun, 03/31/2019 - 9:53am

Excellent observation here. Acid rain and the ozone layer were both identified as significant environmental problems decades ago. Significant policy changes were made in response to that realization. And the threats eased significantly. So, it's been done before and can be done again with rational policy addressing climate change.

Mon, 04/01/2019 - 5:08pm

Have you considered that the death of lakes and forests might have been a bit of political hype and the change is more political than scientific? Could it have been much like the famines, the submersion of beach front towns, and other predictions of 60s and 70s that did not materialize?

Thu, 03/28/2019 - 6:02am

I’ve been to Philadelphia, it doesn’t look anything like the picture used. I thought Bridge was supposed to be unbiased? That picture tells a different story.

John Darling
Thu, 03/28/2019 - 1:49pm

At some point we have to trust in the collective expertise of the experts in climate analysis; those who study and examine this highly complex subject in detail. Their collective judgement suggests we are in deep trouble unless we act soon.

Science is a self correcting process. Yes there have been errors in past projections but climate scientists have continually improved their models
and have reached the consensus we need to act soon. Most of the recent errors in predictions have been on the conservative side, meaning the real observable consequences are consistently worse than predicted.

I support action and soon.

Thu, 03/28/2019 - 3:17pm

Well there's a suggestive pic - don't remember Philly looking like Mars. So TC's climate may resemble Philly in 60 years? That means it may not. One catastrophe prognosticator after another has been wrong for generations. I heard 20 years ago that NYC would be under water by now. What ever happened to that hockey stick temperature model anyway. Oh, it was fake. Every life form on Mother Earth has experienced evolution throughout the millennia and nobody takes Earth's evolutionary and adaptability characteristics into consideration. Earth has never been a static creature yet none of the dire models consider how Earth itself will adapt to it's own climatic changes - as it has done forever. Earth has been here for billions of years - heard it was once covered in ice long before the SUV - and I'm supposed to listen to the most recent intellectually and morally enlightened snake oil salesmen. Sorry. I love science but call me a reality observer.

Barry Visel
Fri, 03/29/2019 - 10:47am

On the bright side, we won’t have to worry about those pesky glaciers returning anytime soon. (Sorry, couldn’t resist).

Sun, 03/31/2019 - 1:08pm

When the remainder of the ice shelves melt ( happening as we speak) hope you didn't spend your swimming lesson money on something else!

Sun, 03/31/2019 - 2:28pm

I Think i have had enough of Bridge Mag.