Projecting Environmental Trajectories for Energy-Water-Habitat Planning

Project Details by Fiscal Year
2010 Fiscal Year Funding Amount
Fund Source
Environment & Natural Resources Trust Fund
University of Minnesota
Recipient Type
Public College/University
Start Date
July 2009
End Date
June 2011
Activity Type
Digitization/Online Information Access
Legal Citation / Subdivision
M.L. 2009, Chp. 143, Sec. 2, Subd. 07b
Appropriation Language

$180,000 is from the trust fund to the Board of Regents of the University of Minnesota to combine detailed climatic records of Minnesota with present and past ecosystem boundaries to forecast future fine-scale flow of climate across the state impacting human activities and natural resources.

2010 Fiscal Year Funding Amount
Other Funds Leveraged
Proposed Measurable Outcome(s)

Click on "Final Report" under "Project Details".

Measurable Outcome(s)

Click on "Final Report" under "Project Details".

Project Overview

Because Minnesota is at the juncture of three distinct types of ecosystems - western prairie, northern coniferous forest, and eastern deciduous forest - the region is particularly sensitive to changes in climate conditions. Understanding how the plants, animals, and waterways of Minnesota might respond to these changes will help the state plan for and manage the potential impacts. The University of Minnesota's Department of Forestry is using this appropriation to analyze past climate conditions in Minnesota and make estimates pertaining to changes expected in the foreseeable future. Results will include:

  • Identification of areas with the potential for renewable bioenergy production;
  • Assessment of climate-induced changes in the use of energy for heating, cooling, and other consumption;
  • Analysis of the future supply of water to reservoirs or groundwater aquifers;
  • Identification of areas at risk of flooding from extreme rainfall events;
  • Assessment of the effect of climate change on a range of locally threatened or endangered species; and
  • Identification of areas at increased risk of fire, insect damage, or other ecological change.

Overall Project Outcome and Results
Just as weather flows across the surface of the earth, so does climate-only much more slowly. Understanding the flow of climate is of particular importance in Minnesota because Minnesota encloses the junction of the three great ecosystems of North America western prairie, northern needle-leaf forests, and eastern broad-leaf forests. Conditions here are particularly sensitive to local changes, and therefore can also be indicators for the nation as a whole.

We applied new methods for understanding this flow of climate, in terms of direction and speed, to actual historical Minnesota weather data. Utilizing established data on both average temperature and total precipitation, we found the lines along which precipitation and temperature do not change and where those lines intersect across Minnesota's landscape. Tracking the advancement of an intersection over time, artifacts of historic importance on climate are identifiable, such as the beginning and end of the dust bowl era. For the present and future, the data show climate in recent years moving northward at a few miles per year.

Results have two major implications, first, as a new confirmation of rate of climate shifts from projections based on global circulation models, and second, as a fine-scale mapping of climate migration in Minnesota. In addition to the average migration, we found differences between longitudinal and lateral migration and differences within Minnesota's ecoregions.

This report outlines the significance of climate migration on habitat for trees, tree pests and diseases, and insects in Minnesota. The project has spawned future research to apply the implications of climate flow, such as how it relates to degree days and other agricultural parameters for the bioenergy industry.

A public product of this project is the Climate Tracker, found on the project website: Climate Tracker allows citizens to follow the flow of climate at any point in Minnesota over the past century, including where it has been and where it is going.

Project Results Use and Dissemination
This was a two-year project. Its first year involved data assembly, algorithm validation, analysis, and preparation of preliminary maps and tables. In its second year, results were correlated with ecological, hydrological, physical, and social aspects. Included in the second year are a final report, public presentations, and web dissemination, which can be found at This website is designed to be user-friendly, useful, and interesting to both scientists and the general public. The interactive Climate Tracker application was developed as a novel way to dynamically view a century of data at a glance, while the brief video introduction presents information in a broader context and allows visitors to the website to meet some of the project researchers.

Future publications in scientific journals are expected to result from this project. Impacts of shifting climate on crops important to Minnesota's economy are being explored through collaborations with the Department of Agronomy and Plant Genetics at the University of Minnesota. A collaboration with the University of Minnesota's Department of Forest Resources is considering the interaction of climate and tree growth, tree ranges, and tree pests. A methods paper is underway documenting the methodology used in this project and comparing the resulting climate velocities with those found using Global Circulation Models.

Project Details
Project Manager
First Name
Last Name
Organization Name
U of MN
Street Address
220f Green Hall, Upper Buford Circle
St. Paul
Zip Code