The Changing Climate of Northeast Ohio: Future Directions

by Bob Heath

The climate is changing all over the United States but not at the same rate in all places. Ohio is among the regions where 

the climate is changing most rapidly. It is predicted that this region will be an average of 4 to 5 degrees warmer by 2050. Such rapid climate change puts at risk the economic and environmental sustainability of ecosystems, a situation that will require people to adapt to the changes or move elsewhere. 

Ohio is getting warmer and wetter. Both the average daily low temperature and the average daily high temperature are increasing; the low temperatures are increasing faster than the  high temperatures. Likewise, the winters are warming faster than the summers. The consequences of the accelerated warming are fewer frozen fields and frozen lakes, both of which threaten traditional agricultural practices that take advantage of the ability to drive heavy equipment over frozen fields. Lakes without ice cover will experience increased evaporation and increased light penetration into the bottom waters, altering temperature-dependent lake processes.

The threat is increased flooding–not lakes drying up. Lakes will be replenished by increased rainfall. Since 1900, precipitation in Ohio has increased by 15%. Five of the 10 wettest years in Ohio have occurred since 2003. Snowfall will decrease, rainfall will increase, and episodes of rainfall will be more intense than in the past. The seasonality of precipitation also is changing. Farmers have depended on the usual scenario of a dry spring (so they can plant early), followed by even rainfall amounts throughout the summer, followed by a dry autumn (so they can harvest their crops). That scenario, however, is changing to a wetter spring, followed by a droughty summer, followed by a rainy autumn. It is a worst-case scenario for agriculture, as farmers will have to alter long-standing best practices in the face of a potentially shorter growing season and the need to plant drought-tolerant crops.

Aaron Wilson

Imagine how great it would be if Ohio had a state climate  office to address these issues. Actually, such an office does exist–at The Ohio State University–and it publishes online a Quarterly Climate Summary. The director of the climate office is Aaron Wilson. Wilson spoke at the Understanding Harmful Algal Blooms: State of the Science conference held on September 12 at the University of Toledo.

The quarterly report for June through August 2019 shows the following: 

  • The summer of 2019 was the 12th wettest summer on record, while June 2019 was the fifth wettest June on record.
  • Portage, Summit and Stark counties were among the counties receiving the most precipitation at 125% to 175% percent above normal (“normal” is the average during the period 1981-2010).
  • The summer of 2019 was warmer than average, achieving the rank of 30th warmest summer since 1895 (about 2 degrees warmer than average over that period).
  • The warmth was driven by warm overnight temperatures.

Kent State Announces 2019 Fall Environmental Events and Speakers

Friday, 10/18/19 

Alex Crawford, College of Wooster
“Using satellites to understand the impact of Arctic sea ice decline on marine phytoplankton”
Geology Colloquium, 1:15 pm, McGilvrey Hall Room 234

Friday, 11/1/19 

Walt Carson, University of Pittsburgh
“Biodiversity collapse and the future of the Eastern Deciduous Forest biome”
Biology Seminar, 12:00 pm, Cunningham Hall Room 13

Derek Sawyer, Ohio State University
Marine sedimentology/Geomechanics/Hurricanes 
Geology Colloquium, 1:15 pm, McGilvrey Hall Room 234

Friday, 11/8/19 

Sarah Carmichael, Appalachian State University Geochemistry/Geomicrobiology
Geology Colloquium, 1:15 pm, McGilvrey Hall Room 234

Friday, 11/15/19 

Ryan Martin, Case Western Reserve
“The sources of variation for evolutionary change”
Biology Seminar, 12:00 pm, Cunningham Hall Room 13

Richard Becker, University of Toledo
Geology Colloquium, 1:15 pm, McGilvrey Hall Room 234
Remote sensing/Hazardous algal blooms

Matt Crawford, Kent State University
Geography Colloquium, 2:30 pm, McGilvrey Hall Room 310

Friday, 11/22/19 

Carly Ziter, Concordia University
“Thinking outside the park: a landscape ecology approach to urban ecosystem services”
Biology Seminar, 12:00 pm, Cunningham Hall Room 13

Kevin Befus, University of Wyoming
Surface-water groundwater interactions/Ecohydrology/Critical zone
Geology Colloquium, 1:15 pm, McGilvrey Hall Room 234

Friday, 12/6/19 

Daniel Herms, Davey Tree
Geography Colloquium, 2:30 pm, McGilvrey Hall Room 310

Hazardous Algal Blooms in Lake Erie: Current State of the Science and Technology

by Bob Heath

Blue-green algae bloom on the shore of Catawaba Island, Ohio, in Lake Erie, summer 2009. (Source: Wikipedia Commons)

For a full day, the topic of discussion among academics, federal and state government officials, ecosystem managers, non- governmental organizations, the public, and even a few retired professors attending the Understanding Harmful Algal Blooms: State of the Science conference hosted by the University of Toledo on September 12, was the damaging effects of recurrent algal blooms on the Lake Erie ecosystem and current efforts to abate them. The conference was produced by The Ohio State University and Ohio Sea Grant, an organization that promotes research in the Lake Erie and the Great Lakes with funding from National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. 

The green scum shown in this image from October 2011 was the worst algae bloom Lake Erie had experienced in decades. Vibrant green filaments extend out from the northern shore. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

The premise of the conference was that the Lake Erie ecosystem begins at the crests of the watershed on both sides of the border. Remediation of the recurrent cyanobacterial (i.e. blue-green algae) blooms that damage water quality, harm wildlife and threaten human health requires understanding the causes of these blooms and removing those causes from the watershed with the goal of a healthier ecosystem for the physical, social and economic benefit of all stakeholders. Below is a synopsis and synthesis of the 14 papers presented at the conference.

Better Prediction of HABs (Hazardous Algal Blooms) in Lake Erie

The ability to predict the timing and extent of cyanobacterial blooms in the western basin of Lake Erie is a measure of how well scientists understand the causes of these blooms, sometimes referred to as hazardous algal blooms (HABs). The better that scientists understand the causes of HABs, the better they can predict them. Past predictions were so-so. In some years, the predictions were accurate but, in other years, they missed the mark. Something was missing in the equations used to predict these algal-bloom events, but what was it?

Dr. Rick Stumpf, an oceanographer at NOAA, presented improvements in the ability of scientists to predict when HABs  occur and how intense they will be. The size of the annual HAB in the western basin of Lake Erie is determined by the amount of bioavailable phosphorus (BAP) that is loaded into the basin, largely through the Maumee River. Only BAP loaded into the lake from early March through mid-June leads to the bloom. Recent studies have shown that the extent of the bloom also is determined by the temperature of the water in June through mid-July, even though the bloom reaches its largest size in mid-August through early September.

Maumee River

Using only the spring BAP loading to the lake, the HAB in 2019 would have been predicted to be among the largest on record. On a scale of 1 to 10, it would have been predicted to be about a 9.0 or 9.5. However–and this is the important point–because June was wetter and cooler than normal, the bloom was predicted to be modest, at 7.5. Observations to date indicate that the bloom appears to be about 7.5, exactly as predicted. This indicates that scientists are understanding the causes of these events better because the predictions are borne out by the observed extent of the HAB.

Progress to Abate P (Phosphorus) Loading to Lake Erie

Example of phosphorus buildup in water

In addition to the ability to predict HABs, scientists want to be able to prevent the blooms–or at least to diminish them.  Many years of study into the land-use effects on Lake Erie’s water quality have shown that the majority of phosphorus loaded into the lake is from agricultural activities, primarily from the Maumee River watershed. BAP runs off fields in one of two ways: from the surface of the field as erosion or from drainage through tiles placed below ground that empty into streams and eventually into Lake Erie. Abatement is achieved best by having tile drainage pass through a phosphorus filter, a device that traps phosphate on industrial slag before it runs into streams. The filter is an efficient device but also an extremely expensive one, precluding its use on all farm fields.

Example of a potential source of phosphorus

Not all farm fields, however, bleed phosphorus equally. Some fields are much more potent sources of phosphorus. Scientists  are looking for ways to identify these phosphorus hot spots and remediate them with phosphorus filters or other techniques. These other techniques include riparian buffer strips between fields and streams, the use of cover crops to retain phosphorus, and constructed wetlands. None of these techniques alone is sufficiently effective. The best approaches seem to be a combination of these techniques used in sub-watershed hot spots. 

Identification of the source of the phosphorus has been relatively easy, and technological advances have readily identified procedures and practices that are likely to be effective. Implementation of these procedures and practices, however, will require substantial public funding and cooperation by a majority of individual farmers. Implementation also will require a well-informed public to provide the necessary political will and societal patience to achieve the eventual outcome of a healthier Lake Erie. Likely, it will take at least a generation to achieve the intended results.

Can that happen, or is this a hopeless pipe dream? The success of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Management Plan shows that it is possible to achieve the necessary cooperation between many layers of government and society. The Chesapeake Bay experience may well serve as a template scenario of management development and implementation.

Join Local Climate Strikes September 20, 2019

Young people all over the world see the looming climate crisis and are demanding that the adults take it seriously. 16-year-old Swedish student Greta Thunberg started protesting in front of the Swedish Parliament over a year ago. Her example caught the imagination of other young people and the media, and the movement has grown into an international effort.

These young people are organizing climate strikes all over the world starting on September 20. So far, there are 6 strike locations planned for Northeast Ohio on September 20th. Let us show our support and solidarity by showing up!

  • Kent State [noon]
    Risman Plaza. 1075 Risman Drive Kent OH US 44240
    Sponsor: Students for a Democratic Society
  • Akron [noon]
    Akron City Hall (across the street). 166 S High Street Akron OH 44308
  • Youngstown [noon]
    Wick park, the side facing Stambaugh auditorium. 1000 5th ave Youngstown OH US 44505
  • Cleveland [noon]
    Public Square. 50 Public Square Suite 1700 Cleveland OH US 44113
  • Wooster [11am]
    College of Wooster Campus – Kauke Arch. E. Henrietta Street Wooster OH US 44691
  • Oberlin [10am]
    Tappan Square. 87 N Main Street Oberlin OH US 44074

Permaculture Workshop Starts September 14

The Unitarian Universalist Church of Kent is teaming up with Green Paradigm Partners, Elsa Johnson and Tom Gibson, to offer a home permaculture workshop for those interested in learning about or building on their knowledge of sustainable gardening and landscaping. 

The workshop will meet from 9 – 11 AM, September 14, 21, 28, and October 5 in Fessenden Hall [downstairs] at the UU Church of Kent. 

The fee is $170 per household (Yes, bring your partner!) Space is limited, so register soon!

To view or print the flyer, click here!   

To register, click here!

Book Review — What We Think About When We Try Not to Think About Global Warming:Toward a New Psychology of Climate Action by Per Espen Stoknes (2015)

By Renee Ruchotzke

The past several months have been full of news about climate change markers (e.g., permafrost and glaciers melting, record-setting heat waves, flooding, crop disruption) that were predicted by climate scientists but were not expected to occur until decades from now. Yet, these events are not eliciting alarm beyond those of us who have already been paying attention. What is it about Western society that is preventing us from taking action?

Epsen Stoknes, a clinical and organizational psychologist from Norway, offers insight into human psychology that outlines barriers to taking action as well as strategies to overcome those barriers.

His first insight is that once people have a basic understanding of the facts about climate change, more facts do nothing to convince most people to change their behavior. Stoknes believes that five (at least) psychological barriers interrupt possible action and that all of these barriers have been purposely triggered by the anti-climate-change movement:

  1. The impact of climate change is at a distance for most Americans. Until there is a direct impact on us or our close family members and friends, we can set climate change outside of our circle of concern.
  2. We are averse to messages of doom and loss. Without an accompanying message of hope and possibility, we feel helpless and shut down our creative abilities.
  3. Much of our lifestyle is complicit in contributing to the problem of climate change, yet we don’t want to feel bad about ourselves or our choices. This creates dissonance, which causes us to downplay our impact.
  4. When we feel fear, guilt or shame, it’s human nature to downplay the cause of those feelings by avoiding, ignoring or engaging in other kinds of denial.
  5. Our social location and identity help to reinforce our beliefs, mores and values. If we take in and adopt information that threatens this sense of who we are and to whom we belong, we risk losing our social position and our identity.

Stoknes then shares strategies to address and dismantle these barriers, including strengthening social ties and community connections, nudging and supporting better behaviors, keeping the messages understandable and pragmatic, using the power of stories, and finding ways to create feedback loops to reinforce preferred climate-friendly behaviors. A few sections of the book are his outlines for new story frames (which did not resonate for me personally), but the book as a whole provides a practical road map for activists who want to have an impact on people’s day-to-day behaviors.


The Environmental Science and Design Symposium, formerly the Land and Water Symposium, is a multidisciplinary forum that promotes the exchange of ideas related to the resiliency of natural and built systems. This year’s theme, “Complexity of Environmental Legacies”, reflects the challenges of developing sustainable systems in landscapes transformed by decades of modification and contamination. Speakers from a wide range of disciplines (fashion, geology, geography, architecture, and ecology) will address topics related to urban, sustainability, restoration, and the integration of design with biological systems.

Co-sponsored by the Kent Environmental Council.

More details at:


J Henry Fair Photo Gallery Opening – Exhibition runs from March 19 – April 5
Reception March 19, 5-7pm
Title: The Hidden Cost
J Henry Fair, Environmentalist & Fine Art Photographer
Location: Armstrong Gallery on the first floor of the Center for Architecture and Environmental Design on the Kent Campus


All Events in KIVA and Student Center, as indicated below
Kent Student Center (On Campus), Kent, OH 44242


6-7 p.m.Keynote Address*
Title: Legacy Nutrient Pollution Impacts on Current and Future Environmental Challenges 
Beth Boyer, Associate Professor of Water Resources, Penn State; Director, Pennsylvania Water Resources Research Center; Assistant Director, Institutes of Energy & the Environment
Location: KIVA
Reception Immediately following the addressReception sponsored by the Cleveland Water Alliance, in the Westfield Insurance Room (204 Kent Student Center) located above the KIVA.


9-9:15 a.m.Opening Remarks
9:15-9:45 a.m.Title: Real gems of the Emerald Necklace: Reflections on a century of land use and nature’s resiliency
Jennifer Grieser, Senior Natural Resources Area Manager — Urban Watersheds, Cleveland Metroparks
Location: KIVA
9:45-10:15 a.m.Title: Lake Erie Algal Blooms: An Update and Lessons Learned While Seeking Solutions
Chris Winslow, Ohio State (Stone Laboratory); Director, Ohio Sea Grant College Program
Location: KIVA
10:15-10:45 a.m.Title: Legacy impacts of coal mining on water resources
Elizabeth Herndon, Assistant Professor of Geology, Kent State
Location: KIVA
10:45-11:15 a.m.Coffee Break in Kent Student Center Ballroom
11:15-11:45 a.m.Title: Waste to Value: Beneficial Uses of Dredged Material for Resilient and Sustainable Built Environment
Rui Liu, Assistant Professor of Architecture and Environmental Design, Kent State University.
Location: KIVA
11:45 a.m.-12:15 p.m.Title: Closed Loop Fashion
Noël Palomo-Lovinski, Associate Professor of Fashion Design & Merchandising, Kent State University
Location: KIVA
12:15-12:45 p.m.Title: An interactive platform for community energy empowerment 
Bess Krietenmeyer, Assistant Professor in Architecture and founder of the Interactive Design and Visualization Lab (IDVL) at Syracuse University
Location: KIVA
12:45-2:15 p.m.Lunch (on your own)
2:15-3:15 p.m.Keynote Address*
Title: Art, Propaganda, and the Discrediting of Science
J Henry Fair, Environmentalist & Fine Art Photographer
Location: KIVA
3:15-4:15 p.m.Panel Discussion with Keynote and Symposium Speakers, moderated by
Joseph D. Ortiz, Professor of Geology, Kent State University

Location: KIVA
4:15-6:30 p.m.Poster Session, Book Signing with J Henry Fair,** Exhibits, Recruiting; with light refreshments
Location: Kent State Student Center

Permaculture Resources from Fall Forum: The Promise of Permaculture

We had a great turnout at the October 22 Fall Forum: Hope for the Planet: The Promise of Permaculture with Renee Ruchotzke.

Here are some resources from the Forum:


Hope for the Planet: The Promise of Permaculture (2018 Fall Forum)

Renee and Randy Ruchotzke in their backyard (Photo Copyright Record Courier)

The threat of climate change calls for a revolution in our way of life, toward a sustainable future. Permaculture offers this revolution in the brilliant disguise of a gardening fad that is really developing a deep understanding of the complex workings of natural systems.

Forum presenter Renee Ruchotzke will share the basic principles of Permaculture and how she is implementing them in her back yard garden. She will offer practical tips you can try at home and ways we can have a positive impact on the climate starting in our community… restoring the earth one back yard at a time.

Renee Ruchotzke has completed a Permaculture Consultant Design course, using what she has learned both in her city lot garden (with husband Randy) and in her work nationally consulting with and training leaders of liberal faith communities.

Monday, October 22, 2018, 7:00pm

Unitarian Universalist Church of Kent
228 Gougler Ave, Kent, OH 44240

Free and open to the public!

KEC Participates at Festivals

KEC’s booth at both River Day and Kent Heritage festivals this year focused on the use of rain barrels to help with water conservation and watershed protection.  Sixty percent of municipal water goes to watering lawns, so using collected rain to water during dry times means there is less water flowing into storm drains, sewer systems and ultimately local waterways.  This protects local watersheds by decreasing runoff from the 70 million pounds of fertilizers and pesticides used on laws each year.  And in doing so, the water plants receive is naturally soft, free of chlorine, fluoride and others chemicals in tap water.  KEC also had displays about the Cuyahoga River’s 20th year as an American Heritage River and information about Lake Erie coastal management.

River Day, the third Saturday in May, was sunny and dry and an overall spectacular day this year.  The Coast Guard oversaw the Ready,Set, Wear It! Lifejacket activity, with young and old trying them on and having fun.  Next year, we are adding dog lifejackets, so stay tuned.

The Kent Parks and Recreation booth was shared by Portage Soil and Water and the City of Kent. They gave away about 500 native trees, including pawpaws, hundreds of packs of a milkweed seed mix, stormwater awareness and safe summer information as well as answering countless questions and sharing fun aquatic animals to look at and touch—always enjoyed by young and old.

The e-fishing at Tannery Park with Davey Resource Group was successful on Friday with Student Day and on Saturday, families shared what they had seen, as the water was not conducive to e-fishing on Saturday.  See pictures from that Sunday’s Record Courier at


Saturday, Crooked River Adventures was sending out kayaks for the on the river for “River Day” Adventures.  And Brad Bolton was there to take pictures and provided music on Saturday as well.


We are all looking forward to next year. It will mark  the 29th Annual River Day Festival here in Kent in May, as well as the 50th anniversary in June of the last Cuyahoga River fire.  There are many groups working to plan great events for next May and June.  Well let you know as things progress.