Minnesota's climate is changing -- so much so that the state is seeing more record-breaking temperatures, higher dew points and more extreme weather events.
The changes are affecting everything from how doctors treat allergies to how cities rebuild storm sewers. With that in mind, transportation planners, public health officials and others will meet in St. Paul today to talk about how best to adapt.
Organizers expect more than 200 people at the sold-out conference, which they say is the first statewide discussion on climate adaptation in Minnesota.
There's no denying the data, said Mark Seeley, a climatologist and meteorologist at the University of Minnesota.
"We are increasingly measuring changes that are outside the range of what we have historically measured," he said.
Seeley said forecasting models show Minnesota's climate will continue to change. He said the transformation will start to occur at a faster rate than seen in recent decades -- even though the United States and other parts of the world have been taking steps to slow climate change.
During today's discussion at the Science Museum of Minnesota, experts will focus on how the state should deal with such change.
Seeley said Minnesota is on the right track, but he said the state's efforts need to be kicked up a notch.
"Adaptation is a mandate to all of us," he said. "It's something that if we want to preserve our infrastructure, we want to preserve our quality of life, we want the same Minnesota to be enjoyed by our offspring we really have to consider, how can we adapt to this? How can we make things work in light of how these things are changing?"
Minnesota has seen several examples of how extreme weather causes major damage, including heavy rainstorms that dumped up to 10 inches on the Duluth area in 2012, causing widespread flooding. In June, severe storms in the Twin Cities took out thousands of trees and knocked out power for days.
That has the attention of insurance people like Bob Johnson, president of the Insurance Federation of Minnesota.
"The patterns are changing," Johnson said. "You're seeing phrases like, 'Are we in a new normal?' Could Minnesota become the Florida of the Midwest in terms of storms and catastrophe losses?"
Homeowners in the state have seen double-digit percentage increases in their insurance premiums in recent years, largely from hail and wind damage, Johnson said.
"It's causing many insurers who are writing the coverage here to be looking, asking the questions, 'Why? What's happening?'" he said. "Insurers are consulting with climate experts and meteorological experts and just seeking to get a better understanding. Because they have to understand the risk in order to price it and sell it and manage it."
Consumers aren't the only ones taking a financial hit for climate change impacts. State and local governments are factoring it in to planning.
Governments need to adapt, said Patrick Hamilton, a geographer who develops projects on climate and water for the Science Museum of Minnesota.
"We have a lot of infrastructure that was designed and built without climate change in mind. It was designed and built with the assumption that climate was variable but stable," Hamilton said. "So we are now faced with a situation where, among other things, we have aging infrastructure and the likelihood that that infrastructure will experience climate extremes that it was not originally designed to accommodate.
"Now as we rebuild that infrastructure, how do we design culverts? How do we anticipate how much water may have to pass under a highway?
The earlier cities and states start adapting to a changed climate and its ramifications, the better off they'll be, Hamilton said.