climate research

Willard Drake Johnson / USGS Photographic Library, http://libraryphoto.cr.usgs.gov/

When explorer Stephen Long led his expedition across the western Great Plains in 1819-1820, it was during a period of widespread drought.  With only a single reference point in time, he concluded the area “is almost wholly unfit for cultivation, and of course uninhabitable by a people depending upon agriculture for their subsistence”.  He also marked the region on his maps as the “Great American Desert”, a label used by other map makers for decades to come.

USDA: Prairie Heating and Carbon Dioxide Enrichment (PHACE) Experiment

Most climate models paint a bleak picture for the Great Plains a century from now: It will likely be warmer and the air will be richer with carbon dioxide. Though scientists don’t yet know how exactly the climate will change, new studies show it could be a boon to some invasive plant species.  

A growing problem

Looking to help farmers adapt to climate change, the U.S Department of Agriculture is setting up seven new research hubs, including a handful that will cover the Great Plains and Midwest.

The new research centers, anchored in different regions, are tasked with charting how climate change poses risks to farming, ranching and forestry. Then they are to devise strategies to adapt.