Climate Vulnerability Assessment

Regional Risks and Opportunities

Two trucks in standing water in a paved road under an overpass.

In his 2016 State of the State address, Governor Mark Dayton made the following observation about climate change: “From kids concerned that pond hockey doesn’t start until January to farmers trying to predict growing seasons, to folks wondering why this year’s March blizzards have turned into 60-degree days, many thousands of Minnesotans have expressed their concerns about the growing impacts of climate change.” The governor wasn’t speaking of distant ice caps and threats to polar bears, but rather to climate changes that we are experiencing regionally and locally, right here in Minnesota.

With the aim of enhancing the lifespan of Council assets through a strategic and proactive planning approach, the Sustainability and Equity outcomes (PDF) within Thrive MSP 2040 (PDF), as well as the Building in Resilience land use policy (PDF), direct staff to produce a regional Climate Vulnerability Assessment.

The most recent National Climate Assessment (NCA), produced by the U.S. Global Change Research Program (2014), synthesizes climate change impacts by sector and by region. The Midwest regional chapter of the NCA Report highlights current and future impacts related to climate change within Minnesota.

As shown in the table below, state climatologists are confident that Minnesota’s warming temperatures and increasingly severe flood events will trend upwards in the coming decades. For this reason, the Metropolitan Council’s Climate Vulnerability Assessment (CVA) focuses on regional climate hazards related to localized flooding and extreme heat.

Climate Change Trends in Minnesota through 2099

Hazard Projections through 2099 Confidence in Projected Changes
Warming Winters Continued loss of cold extremes and dramatic warming of coldest conditions Highest
Extreme Rainfall Continued increase in frequency and magnitude; unprecedented flash-floods Highest
Heat Waves More hot days with increases in severity, coverage, and duration of heat waves High
Drought More days between precipitation events, leading to increased drought severity, coverage, and duration Moderately High
Heavy Snowfall Large events less frequent as winter warms, but occasional very large snowfalls Moderately Low
Severe Thunderstorms & Tornadoes More "super events" possible, even if frequency decreases Moderately Low

Source: MN DNR State Climatology Office. Projected and expected trends among common weather hazards in Minnesota, and confidence that those hazards will change through 2099 in response to climate change. Graphic based on information from the 2014 National Climate Assessment.

Analysis, Recommendations, and Tools

Climate hazards can take a toll on regional investments, be it transit infrastructure or our wastewater assets. As an agency, the Metropolitan Council is responsible for maintaining regional assets and managing investments with climate change in mind. The CVA is a tool that can assist in Council and community planning efforts in preparing and adapting to climate change because the CVA can reveal system vulnerabilities to currently occurring and, to some extent, expected climatic changes.

The CVA project, and this set of webpages, consists of Council-related analysis and recommendations as well as tools for communities and other stakeholders.

We suggest that you start with the Climate Vulnerability Assessment Introduction (PDF) prior to exploring the more technical analysis of this assessment. The interactive maps below are available for community and stakeholder use. You can also find them in Tools and Resources, along with guidance on how to use each tool.