Climate Change for Kids

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Last week we took our South Dakota grandkids to visit the Colorado cousins. There was still snow on the ground when we got to their house in the mountains. And, the abnormal spring weather included snow that kept us from visiting Rocky Mountain National Park. But, we all did have a great time because the four kids had fun together.

One of our stops was the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in Boulder. The kids had a good hike up close to the “Flatirons” and we also toured the facility. NCAR is a federally funded university consortium established in the early 1960s. It has climate change exhibits that are several years old, but the predictions are now reality. For example, extremes of too much (or too little) water are predicted. From 1958 to 2012, Minnesota and Iowa have had up to a 40% increase the amount of precipitation that falls in the heaviest downpours. We are no longer “modeling” climate change; we are living it.

On the afternoon that we visited the climate change exhibits at NCAR, I got a text message from home saying that there had been 2.5 inches of rain over the past several days. The Creek was flowing high and parts of the pasture were flooded. Cattle had to be moved to paddocks on higher ground and the high water wiped out the fence crossings again. The crossings are getting hard to replace because the Creek is so wide; it’s really changed a lot in the last couple of years.

Row crop fields are saturated so the spring fieldwork has been delayed still longer. “Prevented planting” is the condition that triggers federal crop insurance “help”. But, the risk reduction is minimal and it comes with a lot of strings attached. Cover crops that mimic prairies could be used to somewhat alleviate prevented planting in wet fields. Ironically, prairies are remarkably resilient in wet and in dry times.Here’s a link to a blog post that describes the effects of recent flooding on prairies in Nebraska: https://prairieecologist.com/2019/05/28/underwater-prairie/

The same afternoon (May 28) that we visited NCAR, there was a severe tornado outbreak in eastern Kansas that made national news. On our trip home several days later, smoke from Canadian wildfires turned the setting sun blood red. The political debates about the causes of climate change are just empty and sterile rhetoric that distracts from the reality that the changes are already here.

And, our grandchildren will be living in it.

About Lone Tree Farm on Kanaranzi Creek

Recovering academic, earth scientist in phased retirement, farm manager by default, son, husband, father, grandfather.
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