Michigan’s Unusually Warm Summer: Climate Change or Just Weather?

By Chelsea Richardson

2012 Duck Lake Fire

Some of the wildfire damage at Swamp Lakes Moose Refuge.

With all of the extremely hot, dry weather we’ve been having this summer in Michigan, many people are wondering what is going on. Some argue that it’s global warming and others argue that it’s just a hot summer, but here at the Michigan Nature Association we were curious about what the experts were saying about this topic.

Michigan weatherman Jake Dunne talked about the weather back in March; he said “Folks, we are in the midst of a HISTORICAL run of weather… an event that will put March of 2012 in the record books, not to mention a month that will be talked about for decades.” No one could have predicted the string of over 100 degree days we would be getting. Scientists won’t say if global warming is the cause of these 100 degree days or if it’s responsible for the 3,215 daily record high temperatures that were set in June. Linking individual weather events to climate change takes a lot of time along with intensive study, complicated mathematics, and computer models.

According to an article in Time Science, since 1988 climate scientists have warned that climate change would happen. Along with the heat rising, it would also bring more droughts, more sudden downpours, and more widespread wildfires.  So far this year 2.1 million acres have been burned by wildfires. MNA’s Swamp Lake Moose Refuge Sanctuary was affected by the Duck Lake fire in the U.P.; a good portion was completely burned (we’ll talk more about this in a blog post later in the week).

Sometimes weather conditions like this are not caused by global warming, although it is too early to say exactly what the cause of this freak weather is, weather is variable and weird things happen. While at least 15 climate scientists told The Associated Press that this long hot U.S. summer is consistent with what is to be expected in global warming, history is full of such extremes, said John Christy at the University of Alabama in Huntsville. He’s a global warming skeptic who says, “The guilty party in my view is Mother Nature.”

Brad Garmon, director of conservation and emerging issues at the Michigan Environmental Council, wants everyone to “start reading up on this stuff; it’s going to happen more often in the decades to come, whether we like it or not.”

Though the experts disagree on what is causing the extreme weather conditions, one thing is certain: organizations like MNA must continue to work to protect and maintain Michigan’s special natural areas, a task that can be harder in extreme weather. If you’d like to help, consider joining MNA for a volunteer day to help out at a sanctuary near you.

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