Montana University Releases Report on the Impact of Climate Change on the State

In *All, Agricultural Systems by Ag is America

The 2017 Montana Climate Assessment is the first in a planned series of analyses focused on climate trends and their consequences for three of Montana’s vital sectors: water, forests, and agriculture. The report was put together by Montana University System’s Institute on Ecosystems, the Montana Climate Office, the Montana Water Center, and the Montana State University Extension in an effort to inform the state of the changes it’s currently facing and what to expect in the future.

“The central goal of this effort was to create a product that would be useful to Montanans in planning for and adapting to a changing climate,” said lead author Cathy Whitlock, a professor of earth sciences and fellow of the Institute on Ecosystems at MSU. “The assessment’s findings foresee a hotter future for Montana, but it is the specific details about what this means that we can hope citizens will find useful.”

Key findings especially important for Montana’s agriculture industry include:

  • The number of 90+ degree days are expected to increase in the eastern part of the state
  • Decreasing mountain snowpack will continue to lead to decreased streamflow and less reliable irrigation capacity during the late growing season
  • Montana’s growing season is lengthening – now 12 days longer than it was in 1950
  • An increase in frost-free days and longer growing seasons may enable greater crop diversity. However, more 90+ degree days will also increase water loss due to evaporation and transpiration from plants. Hotter days will also increase water demand for most crops, limit grain development, and increase heat stress on livestock
  • Forest fires will be bigger, more frequent, and more severe as the years go on

Montana is not the only state suffering from the effects of climate change. In this environment, it is important that producers are aware of the science behind these changes and be prepared for what’s to come.

For more information on their research and predictions for Montana’s future, read more here.

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