Climate change and the impact on life in the Miami Valley

Severe storms, hurricanes, flash floods, etc. are all weather extremes found around the world, but these weather extremes are changing.

A lot of people hear the words “climate change” and their thought process immediately goes to heat. But climate change is much more complex that just heat. It is entire systems in the atmosphere working differently than they used to.

For example, the water cycle that we all learned in school, rain is evaporated from bodies of water. That water vapor then condenses into clouds, those water droplets from the clouds fall as rain or snow.

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When you add a warmer climate into the equation, the water cycle becomes super-charged leading to more frequent, heavier rain.

Storm Center 7 Meteorologist Austin Chaney spoke with Dr. Elizabeth Hawkins with the Ohio State Extension Office, and she said the climate in the Miami Valley is changing, particularly when it comes to rainfall.

“We’ve seen over the last few decades or so an increase in the amount of rain that we get especially in the spring and fall,” Hawkins said.

All of that extra rainfall may not necessarily be a good thing.

“Especially since we are cooler in the spring with it’s hard to get that water off the field, to get in the field, to get activities done that are critical for this time of the year, like controlling weeds and getting crops planted,” Hawkins said.

Hawkins continued by saying, “And when we get those large rainfall events, maybe two or three inches in a weekend, the soil doesn’t have the ability to absorb that quickly, so we end up with water laying in the field and that is hard to get rid of when we don’t have a lot of sun activity or wind to help dry it off.”

According to Climate Central, Dayton saw its hourly rainfall intensity increase by 18% from 1970 to 2021, which means at times when it’s raining, the rainfall rate or how hard it is raining, is 18% greater than it was in 1970. Extra rain coming in bunches is something that farmers like Scott Anderson, owner of Advent Christmas Tree Farms in Englewood, is having to contend with more frequently.

“What we end up having with any appreciable amount of rain is standing water,” Anderson said.

As Anderson explains, standing water is bad for the roots of Christmas trees.

“When we have standing water what that does is it disciplines the oxygen in the soil. Trees just like any living thing, require oxygen to breathe especially with the root system, so the trees will struggle, the tree will struggle to get oxygen, and in some cases, it just destroys the root system,” Anderson said.

He continued by saying there is fungus in the soil everywhere.

“When you have a lot of water and especially when you have a lot of water and heat, the fungus grows. It challenges our root systems, it really puts them to the test and in a lot of cases, the trees can’t handle the fungus and die,” Anderson said.

For Anderson and other Christmas tree farmers, fungus has been a major issue that has hurt business.

“Those are trees I can’t sell. I have to cut them down and burn them because you don’t want to mulch anything like that because you’re just simply taking that fungus and putting it back into the soil,” Anderson said.

He went on to say that he and his team plant a lot of grass between trees. He said they also plant things like clover, but what they’re doing by that is using it as a sponge to absorb the moisture.

As for Craig Corry, owner of Corry Farms in Greene County, he said it’s all about adapting to change no matter what the weather or changing climate throws at him.

Farmers make up about 2% of the population, so they’ve had to adapt and innovate for decades.

They take a great amount of risk to producer the food for a hungry nation and a hungry world, so along with that risk comes the efforts. If that planting window is smaller, farmers have to have large equipment and work longer hours.

Realizing the next weather forecast has some rain coming, farmers have to work around the clock to get the crip in the ground before it rains.

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