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ARS Home » Plains Area » El Reno, Oklahoma » Grazinglands Research Laboratory » Agroclimate and Natural Resources Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #345760

Research Project: Uncertainty of Future Water Availability Due to Climate Change and Impacts on the Long Term Sustainability and Resilience of Agricultural Lands in the Southern Great Plains

Location: Agroclimate and Natural Resources Research

Title: Southern Great Plains

item Kloesel, Kevin - University Of Oklahoma
item Bartush, Bill - Us Fish And Wildlife Service
item Banner, Jay - University Of Texas At Austin
item Brown, David
item Lemery, Jay - University Of Colorado
item Lin, Xiaomao - Kansas State University
item Loeffler, Cindy - Texas Parks And Wildlife
item Mcmanus, Gary - Oklahoma Climate Survey
item Mullens, Esther - University Of Oklahoma
item Nielsen-gammon, John - Texas A&M University
item Shafer, Mark - University Of Oklahoma
item Sorensen, Cecilia - University Of Colorado
item Sperry, Sid - Oklahoma Association Of Electric Cooperatives
item Wildcat, Daniel - Haskell Indian Nations University
item Ziolkowska, Jadwiga - University Of Oklahoma

Submitted to: USDA Miscellaneous Publication 1343
Publication Type: Book / Chapter
Publication Acceptance Date: 8/31/2018
Publication Date: 11/23/2018
Citation: Kloesel, K., Bartush, B., Banner, J., Brown, D.P., Lemery, J., Lin, X., Loeffler, C., McManus, G., Mullens, E., Nielsen-Gammon, J., Shafer, M., Sorensen, C., Sperry, S., Wildcat, D., Ziolkowska, J. 2018. Southern Great Plains. In: Reidmiller, D.R., C.W. Avery, D.R. Easterling, K.E. Kunkel, K.L.M. Lewis, T.K. Maycock, and B.C. Stewart. Impacts, Risks, and Adaptation in the United States: Fourth National Climate Assessment, Volume II. Washington, DC, USA: U.S. Global Change Research Program. p. 978-1026.

Interpretive Summary: This report summarizes and synthesizes the major known climate-driven vulnerabilities for economic and environmental systems in the Southern Great Plains. Higher temperatures, extreme precipitation, and rising sea levels associated with climate change make the built environment in the region increasingly vulnerable to disruption, particularly as infrastructure ages and populations shift to urban centers. Climate change can also affect Southern Plains terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems, amplifying weather extremes that alter hydrologic regimes and impacting aquatic and terrestrial habitats for the life cycles of many species. The coupling of the region’s growing population, the migration of individuals from rural to urban locations, and climate change will increase and redistribute demand at the intersection of food consumption, energy production, and water resources. Climate change will increase exposure to certain health threats in the region, including extreme heat, degradation of air quality, and diseases transmitted through food, water, and insects; these threats may occur over longer periods of time, or at times of the year when not normally experienced. Tribal nations and indigenous communities in the Southern Plains are particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change, including water resource impacts, extreme weather events, higher temperatures, and other public health issues. Efforts to adapt and build community resilience may be hindered by economic, political, and infrastructure limitations; traditional knowledge and intertribal organizations provide opportunities to respond to the challenges of climate change.

Technical Abstract: The Southern Great Plains spans extremely diverse climatic regimes—from the arid, high-elevation borders with the mountainous states of Colorado and New Mexico on the west, to the humid states of Missouri, Arkansas, and Louisiana in the Mississippi River valley on the east. Climate change is expected to lead to an increase in both average temperatures and frequency, duration, and intensity of extreme heat, but with a reduction in extreme cold. Annual average temperatures in the Southern Great Plains are projected to increase by 3.6°–5.1°F by the mid-21st century and by 4.4°–8.4°F by the late 21st century, compared to a 1976–2005 baseline, and dependent on emissions pathway, with higher emissions leading to higher and faster temperature rise. Extreme heat will become more common; temperatures similar to the summer of 2011 will become increasingly likely to recur, particularly with high emissions. By late in the 21st century, the region may experience an additional 30–60 days per year above 100°F than it does now. Annual average precipitation projections suggest generally small changes in the region, with slightly wetter winters, particularly in the north of the region, and drier summers. However, the frequency and intensity of heavy precipitation is anticipated to continue to increase, particularly with higher emissions and later in the century. Climate change is likely to exacerbate the frequency, duration, and intensity of drought in the Southern Great Plains, largely associated with drying soils due to increased evapotranspiration caused by higher temperatures.