Great Lakes Minnesota Property and Infrastructure

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Climate Change in Minnesota
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Climate Change Impacts:
Property and Infrastructure

Cities and other heavily developed areas are particularly vulnerable to the risks of climate change. This vulnerability is a result of a unique combination of exposure and sensitivity to a changing climate, and the ability of populations to adapt to these changes.

By definition, cities are characterized by a large concentration of infrastructure, buildings, and people. As a result, all these people and structures are exposed to the impacts of climate change. Older buildings and infrastructure, which were built under less stringent building codes, are typically less resistant to extreme weather events, such as extreme heat periods or precipitation and flooding events. The ability of property owners, municipal managers, and city dwellers to adapt to a changing climate largely depends on the financial resources available to them. The costs of adapting will rise with the magnitude of climate change, straining the resources of the many segments of society and municipalities. Among the potential impacts of climate change with implications for property and infrastructure in Minnesota are:

  • Increase Frequency of Heavy Rainstorms
    Climate change models for the Great Lakes region project an increase in the frequency of heavy rainstorms—both 24-hour and multiday—over the course of the century. More frequent heavy rainstorms will likely lead to more floods, exacerbated by stream channeling and more paved surfaces. This could result in greater property damage, place heavier burdens on emergency management, increase cleanup and rebuilding costs, and exact a financial toll on businesses and homeowners. Minnesota has felt the impact of severe flooding over the past several years. Record breaking storm rains fell in 1997 with damages and associated economic impacts estimated at as much as $2 billion.

  • Increased Frequency of Flooding
    Zumbro River, MNAn increase in the frequency of storms, and flooding in particular, could overwhelm municipal water-related infrastructure. Therefore, municipalities in Minnesota will have to upgrade water-related infrastructure—including levies, sewer pipes, and wastewater treatment plants—in anticipation of a changing climate.

  • Decreased Lake Levels
    Ship outside DuluthDespite more frequent heavy rain events, lake levels are expected to drop due to higher rates of evaporation. Lower lake levels will have costly implications for shipping and other economic activities on Lake Superior. A drop in levels would require more frequent dredging of channels and harbors, as well as the adjustment of docks, water intake pipes, and other infrastructure. On the other hand, a longer ice-free season will extend the shipping season.

Photo Credits:
Loon -- US Fish and Wildlife Service, Art Weber.
Zumbro River, MN -- U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Shipping outside Duluth -- Courtesy of Minnesota Seagrant.
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We can reduce global warming emissions and ensure communities have the resources they need to withstand the effects of climate change—but not without you. Your generous support helps develop science-based solutions for a healthy, safe, and sustainable future.