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Impacts of climate change on the state of Indiana: ensemble future projections based on statistical downscaling


Using an ensemble of 10 statistically downscaled global climate model (GCM) simulations, we project future climate change impacts on the state of Indiana (IN) for two scenarios of greenhouse gas concentrations (a medium scenario—RCP4.5 and a high scenario—RCP 8.5) for three future time periods (2020s, 2050s, 2080s). Relative to a 1971–2000 baseline, the projections show substantial changes in temperature (T) for IN, with a change in the annual ensemble mean T for the 2080s RCP8.5 scenario of about 5.6 °C (10.1 °F). Such changes also indicate major changes in T extremes. For southern IN, the number of days with daily maximum T above 35 °C (95 °F) is projected to be about 100 days per year for the 2080s RCP8.5 scenario, as opposed to an average of 5 days for the historical baseline climate. Locations in northern IN could experience 50 days per year above 35 °C (95 °F) for the same conditions. Energy demand for cooling, as measured by cooling degree days (CDD), is projected to increase nearly fourfold in response to this extreme warming, but heating demand as measured by heating degree days (HDD) is projected to decline by 30%, which would result in a net reduction in annual heating/cooling energy demand for consumers. The length of the growing season is projected to increase by about 30 to 50 days by the 2080s for the RCP8.5 scenario, and USDA hardiness zones are projected to shift by about one full zone throughout IN. By the 2080s, all GCM simulations for the RCP8.5 scenario show higher annual precipitation (P) over the Midwest and IN. Projected seasonal changes in P include a 25–30% increase in winter and spring by the 2080s for the RCP8.5 scenarios and a 1–7% decline in summer and fall P (although there is a low model agreement in the latter two seasons). Rising T is projected to cause systematic decreases in the snow-to-rain ratio from Nov-Mar. Snow is projected to become uncommon in southern IN by the 2080s for the RCP8.5 scenario, and snowfall is substantially reduced in other areas of the state. The combined effects of these changes in T, P, and snowfall will likely result in increased surface runoff and flooding during winter and spring.

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This paper is a contribution to the Indiana Climate Change Impacts Assessment (INCCIA). The INCCIA is organized and financially supported by the Purdue Climate Change Research Center.

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Correspondence to Alan F. Hamlet.

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This article is part of a Special Issue on “The Indiana Climate Change Impacts Assessment” edited by Jeffrey Dukes, Melissa Widhalm, Daniel Vimont, and Linda Prokopy.

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Hamlet, A.F., Byun, K., Robeson, S.M. et al. Impacts of climate change on the state of Indiana: ensemble future projections based on statistical downscaling. Climatic Change 163, 1881–1895 (2020).

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