A frequent and favorite guest on Greening of the Great Lakes is Dr. Jeff Andresen, state climatologist for Michigan and professor in MSU’s Department of Geography, Environment, and Spatial Sciences.
In our most recent conversation, we covered the water front on issues related to climate and weather—including two of Andresen’s major worries: 1) rising sea levels and how they are already affecting coastal communities and 2) potential draconian cuts to federal support for “essential” climate-related research and what those reductions would mean to institutions like Michigan State.
Asked for his reaction to a recent and compelling New York Times series on ice melting in Antarctica, Andresen explains that the melts, along with other factors, have already led to rising sea levels that he and many other climate researchers believe “may be the most serious and expensive problem we have with the environmental problems taking place.”
And just when scientific research is most needed to help plan for and mitigate climate-related problems like rising sea levels, the Trump Administration’s proposed 2018 budget calls for dramatic cuts to agencies that fund such investigation. Andresen says that he and many of his colleagues around the country are “very, very concerned about these cuts”—cuts which would have a “devastating impact on research programs, especially at places like Michigan State University.”
As for major, weather-related developments over the past year, Andresen confirms there was a transition from El Nino to La Nina, but the La Nina was “a marginal event,” not nearly as significant as it can be. In lieu of a powerful La Nina, “the single greatest change or weather-related impact over the last year” was the country going “from record-breaking extreme drought in portions of California and the Southwest almost to an excess of water. For it to take place that rapidly is extraordinary.”
Closer to home, Andresen reports that “Michigan farmers have come through a wet spring fairly well, and there’s more optimism about where we’re headed.” As for the much reported impact of recent cold snaps on fruit production, Andresen says that damage will take more time to assess. However, he adds, many fruit growers have invested in additional, frost-prevention technologies, like high-powered fans that circulate warmer air into the tree canopies to reduce freeze damage.
Michigan’s lake levels “remain above normal and almost certainly will continue to be for much if not all of the remainder of the year, Andresen adds.”
Some of Andresen’s favorite websites to track climate issues are U.S. Army Corp of Engineers, Midwestern Climate Center 'Climate Watch', NOAA Climate Prediction Center, and NOAA Great Lakes Environmental Research Lab.
Andresen says the new name for his academic home, the Department of Geography, Environment, and Spatial Sciences, well reflects the diverse expertise and integrated interests of the faculty. And with the increasing emphasis on such areas as satellite and drone technology, the department has been attracting a growing number of both undergraduate and graduate students.
“We’re proud of our track record in getting students good jobs and positions in the real world.”
Greening of the Great Lakes airs inside MSU Today Sunday afternoons at 4:00 on 94.5 FM and AM 870.