How will increased temperatures, rain affect Albert Lea in the future?

Published 7:06 pm Tuesday, July 10, 2018

According to a report presented Monday to the Albert Lea City Council in a study session, half of local storms estimated to have delivered at least 6 inches of rain over at least 1,000 square miles in the area since 1866 have occurred over the last 12 years.

Ted Redmond, principal with the sustainability consultant firm paleBLUEDOT, announced the recently-released findings on climate change as part of the Population Vulnerability Assessment and Population Adaptability Framework, funded by a Minnesota Pollution Control Agency grant.

Redmond said the average annual temperature in Albert Lea has increased 1.35 degrees since 1950. Annual precipitation levels have increased 11 percent, and heavy precipitation events have increased 58 percent, according to the report.

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Redmond said the initiative seeks to advance climate change awareness, promote dialogue in decision-making and strengthen adaptive capacity.

The study looked at population vulnerabilities in Albert Lea and risks to the population based on possible climate change effects, including food vulnerability, decreases in air quality due to higher temperatures, possible increases in diseases such as Lyme disease and water supply problems due to water-borne illnesses.

Redmond recommended the city prioritize resilience and adaptation efforts to address risks of extreme weather caused by climate change.

“We would identify particular attention should be paid to strategies which are most effective for those in economic stress, older adults, disabled individuals and at-risk workers,” he said.

Redmond said climate scientists are evaluating trends over time to decipher the impact climate change is having on year-to-year trends.

“The climate scientists that do these projections have an awful lot of debate amongst themselves about (what is within normal variability), or is this within a variability that is increasing because of the loaded dice that we are putting into the climate,” he said.

According to the study, the average local temperature is expected to increase 3 to 9 degrees by the year 2100.

Rainfalls are expected to be more volatile, and days of temperatures above 95 degrees are expected to dramatically increase to 50 to 52 a year. Days with temperatures below freezing are expected to decrease by 45 days. The growing season is projected to increase by more than 30 days.

“Growing season is fantastic, but the other thing we need to understand is growing season also relates to vectors, insects, ticks, mosquitoes,” Redmond said. “Another month is an entire family, it’s another generation of some of those vectors.”

Redmond and Albert Lea Assistant City Manager Jerry Gabrielatos submitted an application to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency to conduct a tree canopy and heat island assessment plan. The tree canopy component is expected to assess the extent of tree canopy and groundwater by neighborhoods. Surfaces will also be examined.

Redmond said he anticipates identifying strategies the city can use to mitigate heat islands — an urban area warmer due to human activity — make tree and groundwater improvements, strengthen Blue Zones community strategies and exploring urban and community forestry and economic development potential.

The results of the application for the climate adaptation component of grant funding is expected to be reviewed with city staff and the public.

The results of the study were released four months after the city received a $3,500 Clean Energy Resource Teams grant it planned to use to evaluate the possibility of expanding the community’s solar energy footprint.

After the grant was received, the city planned to collect annual energy use data, energy use and performance evaluation, evaluate the viability of solar energy, develop a detailed solar production concept design, calculate annual energy generation possible and develop preliminary project budgets.

The city planned to develop a project report summarizing its findings, identifying the local economic development potential of solar development and including a proposed solar implementation plan for city-owned facilities.

The city planned to send the data it gathered to Redmond.

He said Monday he was putting together potential recommendations regarding the feasibility of solar energy.

Redmond said by the middle of this century, summer conditions in Albert Lea are expected to be similar to current conditions in Chesterfield, Missouri; Bowling Green, Kentucky; Maryville, Tennessee; and Dover, Delaware.

About Sam Wilmes

Sam Wilmes covers crime, courts and government for the Albert Lea Tribune.

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