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Updated 11 October, 2003

US National Assessment of
the Potential Consequences of
Climate Variability and Change
Region: Northern Great Plains



For additional information, see the Great Plains Mega- Region

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Links to Material from the Northern Great Plains Assessment Group:

  • Workshop Report: Climate Change. Meeting the Challenge / Seizing the Opportunities.  A Regional Workshop for the Northern Great Plains and Rocky Mountain Region (15-17 November 1999). 

Related Articles from the National Assessment's Newsletter, Acclimations.

The Workshop

A workshop was organized by the University of North Dakota, November 5-7, 1997 as part of the series of US Global Change Research Program (USGCRP) regional climate change workshops. This series of workshops is seen as a first step in a U.S. national assessment of the potential consequences of climate variability and change. The central purpose of the workshop was to create a learning community, namely, a group with such diverse backgrounds that its collective expertise can address the challenges and seize the opportunities that will accompany climate change. This group will function at the intersection where science, public policy, and individual responsibility overlap. The uniqueness of the Northern Great Plains, which includes North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, Wyoming, Idaho and northwestern Minnesota, is that both the economic competitiveness and the quality of life of the region are dictated by the environment. Extreme weather events and natural hazards, even life-threatening ones, are frequent. The economies are heavily based on natural resources and agriculture. Climate, perhaps especially its variations, are therefore at the forefront of the consciousness of all residents.

Issues for Analysis

The follow-up assessment will consider a limited number of key sectors and issues that are critical in the Northern Great Plains region. Agriculture, forestry, grasslands, and K-12 and informal education are the key sectors that will be covered. The key issues to be addressed, as identified by stakeholders include: 1) water - its future quantity, quality, allocation, and reliability of supply; 2) anticipated frequency of extreme weather events - severe cold, extreme heat, hail, tornadoes, floods, droughts, blizzards; 3) teacher training in multi-disciplinary earth system science and geospatial technologies; and 4) information creation and distribution, by and to the community. The focus is on addressing environmental and socio-economic impacts due to climate changes, recognizing that some of the current stresses in the region are complicating factors.

Strategy for the Assessment

The general strategy of the Northern Great Plains Region is to take action and to encourage stakeholders to take action, so the worst consequences of climate change can be reduced and opportunities that always accompany major changes can be seized. This region seeks a region specific climate model nested within a global climate model. The socioeconomic scenarios are vague since they are built on assumptions regarding human reactions, always extremely difficult to predict, to climatic consequences that themselves are uncertain. Two additional workshops were held in 1999, one for NGP Native Peoples and another for all interested stakeholders. An assessment report is expected in 2002.

Co-Principal Investigators George Seielstad, University of North Dakota
Leigh Welling, University of North Dakota
Co-Principal Investigators Kevin Dalsted, Sherry Farwell, Paul Gessler, Ray Knighton, Patricia McClurg, Gerald Nielsen, Lloyd Queen
Coordinating Federal Agency National Aeronautics and Space Administration
Agency Representatives Woody Turner
Alex Tuyahov
Additional Involvement U.S. Geological Survey (EROS Data Center)
Key Sectors/Issues Sectors:
  • Agriculture
  • Forestry
  • Grasslands
  • Education: K-12 and informal
  • Water: quantity, quality, allocation, supply
  • Extreme Weather Events
  • Teacher Training
  • Information Creation and Distribution

Assessment Team

  • Kevin Dalsted, South Dakota State University
  • Sherry Farwell, S.D. School of Mines and Technology
  • Paul Gessler, University of Idaho
  • Ray Knighton, North Dakota State University
  • Patricia McClurg, University of Wyoming
  • Gerald Nielsen, Montana State University
  • Lloyd Queen, University of Montana
  • Leigh Welling, University of North Dakota

Steering Committee

  • Bryan Aivazian, Teacher, Casper
  • Robert Beck, Pioneer Seed (Co-Chair)
  • Bruce Boe, North Dakota Atmospheric Resource Board
  • Jim Foreman, Rancher
  • Dawn Gibas-Tracy, Summit EnviroSolutions
  • Robert Gough, Intertribal Council on Utility Policy
  • Roger Johnson, State Agriculture Commissioner
  • Rich Klukas, National Park Service
  • Kim Mayeski, J.R. Simplot Company
  • Patricia McClurg, University of Wyoming
  • Gerald Nielsen, Montana State University
  • Doug Olsen, Upper Midwest Aerospace Consortium
  • Leon Osborne, University of North Dakota
  • Joe Satrom, The Nature Conservancy
  • George Seielstad, University of North Dakota
  • R.J. Thompson, EROS Data Center
  • Gary Wagner, Farmer
  • Patrick Zimmerman, S.D. School of Mines and Technology

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