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FROM THE

Knowledge is power

Weren’t we just complaining about the wintry weather? Spring lasted about three seconds and summer is here, along with tornado season.

As the wind and rain pummeled the windows last night, I scrolled apprehensively through US National Weather Service updates online. My daughter hates storms and has entered a phase where she is constantly worried that a tornado will strike. It didn’t help that we had to hunker down in the Ellsworth High School basement last Monday when the sirens sounded just prior to an Ellsworth School Board meeting. We live between Spring Valley and Menomonie, and two tornadoes touched down not terribly far from our house.

I’m trying to combat her fear by teaching her that knowledge is power; however, there's a fine line between providing knowl edge in order to know how things work and scaring the crap out of her. I can’t win. Showing her how the NWS tracks storms inspired her to bag up her beloved sloth collection and take them “camping” in the basement indefinitely, just in case a tornado were to strike our house and they were sucked up into the abyss. I can’t win.

I follow “Western Wisconsin Weather & Storm Chasing” on Facebook. A western Wisconsin man named Justin chases storms with his beloved pug, Brutus, and posts knowledgeable updates and amazing photos of area storms. He is better than any weather person I’ve followed. If you haven’t heard of him, check out his page. He has more than 27,000 followers and the information he provides is fascinating.

Are you like me and wondering what the heck is happening to our weather? Spring the past few years is almost non-existent, summers are scorching, winters are beyond long (even if they’re milder) and catastrophic rain events are becoming more common. Here are some alarming facts on climate change provided by local news source UpNorth News and the Wisconsin DNR:

• Due to climate change, the average temperature on any given winter day in Wisconsin has increased by 2-6 degrees since 1950, according to the Wisconsin Initiative on Climate Change Impacts (WICCI) at the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies at UW-Madison. And the average low temperature on a given day has increased even more, up by 6-8 degrees in central and northwestern Wisconsin.

• Wisconsin has had a couple of the warmest and wettest decades on record. Our winters have featured more episodes of the dreaded “polar vortex” that plunge temperatures well below 0°. Those short- term temperature dives don't ouset the longer, warmer periods—as a result, there are fewer days of ice cover on the Great Lakes.

• The state in recent years has seen more intense and frequent heavy rains, resulting in flooding, eroding soil and coastlines, washing out roads and bridges, breaking dams, overwhelming sewers and wastewater treatment plants, causing larger algae blooms, bodily harm and illness.

Extreme heat frequency has exacerbated heatstroke cases and auected those who suuer from chronic illnesses, such as asth ma, cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

• Warming temperatures and increased rainfall due to climate change brings uncertainty to Wisconsin’s agriculture sector and threaten food security. Even though warmer temperatures could benefit crop productivity by providing longer growing seasons, extreme heat conditions are stressful to crops and livestock. In addition, increasing extreme precipitation events will make it harder to plant and harvest crops, will increase soil erosion and compaction, will promote plant pests, disease and invasive species, and will lead to higher amounts of polluted runou. This runou could increase impacts to wa – ter quality and harm fish, plants, wildlife, livestock, and people.

• Warmer winters means more frequent thawing land, preventing machinery’s access to manage forests and transport harvested wood. However, because of the diversity of soils and forest types within the state, some tree species will be more sensitive while others will be able to adapt. For example, drier conditions and warmer temperatures will increase risk of wild- fire and reduce suitable habitat for many northern and boreal tree species. Yet central Wisconsin hardwoods, like hickory, black oak and walnut are likely to adapt to warmer temperatures and expand their range across the state.

• Climate change also threatens the tourism and outdoor recreation industries, which, like forestry and agriculture, are major sectors of Wisconsin’s economy. For example, increased frequency and intensity of rain during warm months can damage and reduce access to parks, beaches, lakes, rivers and other natural resources. Those climate euects can limit camping, hiking, fishing, boating, hunting, sightseeing and other opportunities that typically draw people from around the world. Similarly, warmer winters and precipitation shifting from snow to rain or freezing rain can lim- it ice fishing, snowmobiling, snowshoeing and skiing opportunities, impacting local restaurants, hotels and taverns that depend on this winter recreation. This is all pretty depressing. But knowledge is power, right? What can you do to help?

• Schedule a home energy audit: Learn how to cut energy waste in your home and save some money maybe too!

• When buying appliances, shop for Ener- gyStar evcient models.

• Maintain your appliances to keep them ef- ficient: Change filters, clean coils, etc.

• Use eco-friendly laundry detergents and cleaning products and use your clothesline to dry clothes! Plus they smell amazing line-dried.

• Try to drive less or car pool. That’s tough when you live in a rural area, I know.

BY SARAH NIGBOR

May 17, 2022