DNR official sees wetter, warmer weather

FORT RIDGELY STATE PARK — A Minnesota Department of Natural Resources senior climatologist discussed Minnesota’s most important climate trends and what the best available science says we should expect in the years and decades ahead.

“Minnesota is getting warmer and wetter. We’ve been on a gradual warming trend since 1895. We’re getting more extreme rainfall and less extreme winter cold,” said Dr. Kenneth Blumenfeld in the Fort Ridgely State Park chalet on a cold fall night.

Blumenfeld predicted more hot days, warmer nights and heat waves in the coming decades.

“It really happens at night, when gases act like a blanket, trapping heat over the earth after a hot day,” Blumenfeld said. “Data is more unclear on future drought and tornadoes. We’ve had fewer Minnesota tornadoes since 2010.”

He said the number of really cold winter days is declining.

“Remember those really cold, minus 35 degree Fahrenheit winter days we used to have? We don’t have them hardly at all anymore,” Blumenfeld said. “The average cold temperatures in Minnesota are really rising fast, especially in northern Minnesota. Winters are warming 13 times faster than summers since 1970. Since the 1990s Grand Rapids has a minus 35 degree Fahrenheit day only once a decade.”

Blumenfeld said the warmer winters in northern Minnesota are particularly hard on tamarack trees, since beetles that eat them are moving to other trees and destroying them instead of dying from cold weather.

“Northern Minnesota trees are being literally pushed out of their comfort zone,” he said. ”

From 2025 to 2040, he predicted less extreme cold temperatures, more extreme rainfall, drought in between, and more heat waves.

“Minnesota has big temperature swings throughout the year, but we are not as prone to weather extremes as California is, where they are having more extreme heat, heavy rain at times and dry periods, which cause lots of fires,” Blumenfeld said.

He said data shows climate change is caused more by man than by nature because the warmer, wetter weather trend is happening at such a rapid pace.

Blumenfeld agreed with people who suggested the smoky air conditions earlier this year were caused mostly by large forest fires in the western United States and Canada.

Steve Hemmingsen of Hendricks agreed about more extreme weather.

“We got bombed by hail last summer. It wasn’t real big but there was a lot of it,” said Hemmingsen, a Morgan native who retired from KELO TV in Sioux Falls, S.D., in 2010 after doing more than 18,000 newscasts.

A news report on stormersite.com reported golf ball size hail in Hendricks on June 22, 2017. The area around Hendricks has had three hail storm reports within 10 miles in the last three years, according to the report.