Hoosiers face a changing climate with drier, hotter seasons

Anybody who doubts climate change is happening in Indiana need look only to Fort Wayne, the second largest city which sits in the northeast corner of the state. Sans a stint for college and post-graduate work, I’ve lived in Fort Wayne for the past 38 years, and what I see worries me. Sadly, although 65 percent of Hoosiers believe global warming is happening, only 57 percent of us are worried about it, according to Yale University

Let’s start with winter. I’m an avid cross country skier, and while Indiana has never been enough of a consistent snow producer to warrant dedicated cross country ski centers, there has always been enough snow in northern Indiana to make cross country skiers happy. No more.

For years, I’ve logged how many days I’ve been able to cross country ski, my requirement being at least four inches of snow. In the late 1990s, I was skiing between 30 and 35 days. Yet those numbers have dwindled, falling to around 20 days by 2010. In the last two winters, I haven’t been able to log one day. And there’s data to support my claims. According to WANE TV, although Fort Wayne did receive 35.8 inches of snow in 2020, that number fell to only 23.2 inches in 2021.

Meanwhile, summers are changing, as conditions are getting hotter. While only 20 nights a year are over 68 degrees Fahrenheit, the Environmental Research Institute at Bloomington University estimates that Indiana will experience 47 to 58 nights that exceed 68 degrees Fahrenheit by mid century.

With higher temperatures come drier conditions, something Hoosiers are also dealing with. In the summer of 2023, Fort Wayne picked up only 9.15 inches of rain in 2023, 3.18 inches below normal, according to WANE TV. Year-to-year totals are going down, too. While numbers weren’t available for Fort Wayne, yearly precipitation in Indianapolis fell from 52.56 annual inches in 2003 to 34.88 inches in 2022, according to the National Weather Service.   

When it does rain, though, it often storms, the intensity of storms ramping up with more ferocious winds. Take, for instance, a derecho that slammed into Fort Wayne in June of 2022. The city’s airport measured a record-setting 98 mile-per-hour wind gust. That wind took down over 1,000 trees in Fox Island, one of the city’s premiere nature preserves.

Indiana may not have to deal with hurricanes or wildfires, but the shifting climate is certainly taking its toll on the state, something that outdoor enthusiasts like me are mourning