Warmer winters put Minnesota dog sledding at risk


>>Sreenivasan: THIS WEEKEND, WE ARE BRINGING YOU A SPECIAL SERIES OF STORIES EXAMINING HOW THE CHANGING CLIMATE IS IMPACTING STATES ALONG THE MISSISSIPPI RIVER. OUR REPORTERS AND PRODUCERS SPENT THE LAST MONTH TRAVELLING TO SEVERAL STATES THAT BORDER THE MISSISSIPPI, TO EXPLORE NOT ONLY THE IMPACT OF CLIMATE CHANGE BUT SOLUTIONS FOR COMBATING RISING WATERS, ENVIRONMENTAL HAZARDS AND DISRUPTION OF COMMERCE. WE BEGAN WHERE THE MISSISSIPPI RIVER DOES IN THE STATE OF MINNESOTA, WHERE BUSINESSES IN THE NORTH THAT RELY ON THE COLD ARE FACING WARMER WINTERS. ONE SUCH BUSINESS IS DOG SLEDDING. KAOMI GOETZ, A REPORTER FOR ONE GREATER MINNESOTA, BRINGS US THE STORY FROM TWIN CITIES PBS. THE SERIES IS PART OF OUR ONGOING SERIES, “PERIL AND PROMISE: THE CHALLENGE OF CLIMATE CHANGE,” AND IS PRODUCED IN PARTNERSHIP WITH NEXUS MEDIA NEWS, A NONPROFIT NEWS ORGANIZATION.>>WELCOME TO THE STARTING LINE!WEARING BIB NUMBER EIGHT, FROMDULUTH…>>Reporter: TEMPERATURES DIPPED TO MINUS DIGITS FOR THE 35th ANNUAL JOHN BEARGREASE DOG SLED MARATHON. AT 300 MILES, IT’S THE LONGEST DOG SLED RACE IN THE LOWER 48 STATES. PETER McCLELLAND RUNS A DOG SLED ADVENTURE BUSINESS IN ELY. HE WAS ONE OF THE 11 MARATHON COMPETITORS. HE SAID IT’S A CHALLENGING COURSE.>>THE MAIN THING YOU’RE GOING TO THINK ABOUT IS, JUST TAKE IT EASY AT THE BEGINNING. YOU COULD LOSE THIS RACE IN THE FIRST RUN. YOU CANNOT WIN THIS RACE IN THE FIRST RUN.>>ONE OF THE MENTORS OF THEJOHN BEARGREASE SLED DOGMARATHON, PLEASE WELCOME PETERMcCLELLAND!(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)>>Reporter: AFTER CONNECTING WITH HIS DOGS, IT WAS McCLELLAND’S TURNED TO START.>>5-4-3-2-1, THE MENTOR IS NOWTHE COMPETITOR!>>Reporter: IT SEEMED LIKE A PICTURE PERFECT WINTRY POSTCARD, BUT THE BEARGREASE IS CHANGING. ORGANIZERS HAD TO SHAVE OFF MORE THAN 70 MILES FROM LAST YEAR’S COURSE. IT WAS ALSO REROUTED, ALL BECAUSE OF A CONTINUAL TREND: LACK OF SNOW.>>HE’S OUT OF HERE!(CHEERS)>>CLIMATE CHANGE, I… I THINK IT’S COMING. I MEAN, IT’S HERE, PROBABLY. I’M NOT AN OFFICIAL, BUT I THINK IT’S HERE, AND IT’S DEFINITELY SOMETHING THAT’S GOING TO AFFECT OUR INDUSTRY.>>Reporter: THE CHANGES ARE ALREADY BEING FELT BY THOSE WHO MAKE THEIR LIVING OFF WINTER. (DOGS BARKING) PAUL SCHURKE CAME UP TO ELY DECADES AGO AND RUNS A DOG SLEDDING BUSINESS.>>WE’VE KEPT OUR OWN LITTLE NOTES ON OPERATING A SEASON SINCE WE STARTED HERE 40 YEARS AGO, AND WE’VE SEEN OUR DOGS AT OPERATING SEASON DIMINISH BY SOMETHING IN THE ORDER OF 20%. IN OUR FIRST SEVERAL YEARS, WE WERE ABLE TO CONSISTENTLY… OUR FIRST DECADE, WE CONSISTENTLY DOG SLEDDED FOR ABOUT 116, 120 DAYS OF WINTER. NOW, MAYBE JUST OVER 90 IF WE’RE LUCKY.>>Reporter: LOSING A MONTH OR MORE IS DISASTER FOR A FOUR- MONTH SEASONAL BUSINESS. MANY OF THE STATE’S DOG SLEDDERS ARE CONCENTRATED AROUND ELY. SCHURKE ESTIMATES, IF THEY ALL GO UNDER, IT’LL BE A LOSS OF $1.5 MILLION A YEAR TO THE AREA ECONOMY, AND THAT’S A LOT FOR A COMMUNITY THAT CAN’T SURVIVE ON SUMMER TOURISM ALONE.>>FOR THOSE OF US WHO’VE BEEN HERE NOW FOR SOME DECADES AND WHOSE BUSINESSES HAVE BEEN DEPENDENT ON IT, WE’VE GOT A MICROSCOPIC VIEW OF WHAT’S GOING DOWN BECAUSE WE DEAL WITH DAILY.>>Reporter: THE WINTRY BEAUTY IS SOMETHING TO SEE, BUT THE SCIENTISTS AGREE WINTER IN MINNESOTA IS UNDER SIEGE.>>THE SUMMERTIME TEMPERATURE IS GOING UP, BUT MOSTLY BECAUSE IT’S GOING UP AT NIGHT. IT’S NOT GOING UP DURING THE DAY. WHEN WE LOOK AT WINTER, THE WINTERTIME TEMPERATURE IS GOING UP BOTH DURING THE DAY AND ESPECIALLY AT NIGHT. AND WINTER IN GENERAL IS WARMING ABOUT TEN TIMES FASTER THAN SUMMER IN MINNESOTA OVER THE LAST FIVE DECADES OR SO.>>Reporter: HE SAYS IT AMOUNTS TO A WARMING OF ABOUT ONE DEGREE PER DECADE, AND THAT CONTRIBUTES TO MILDER WINTERS. BUT WHAT ABOUT THE RECENT POLAR VORTEX OF 2019? BLUMFIELD SAYS WE USED TO GET A LOT MORE OF THEM, AND THEY STUCK AROUND FOR WEEKS.>>THE FACT THAT IT HAS BEEN 23 YEARS SINCE ONE LIKE THIS HAPPENED IS PROBABLY REALLY STRONG EVIDENCE THAT THE CLIMATE HAS CHANGED AND IS CHANGING.>>WE’RE SEEING THIS SORT OF AS ENVIRONMENTAL DISTRESS OR AN EMOTIONAL ANXIETY.>>Reporter: RESEARCHERS ARE LOOKING AT HOW PEOPLE ARE RESPONDING TO CLIMATE CHANGE. IN DULUTH, CROSS COUNTRY SKIERS ARE OFTEN CHALLENGED WITH LESS SNOW.>>ONE CREATIVE ADAPTATION WE’VE SEEN PEOPLE DO IS TURNING TO WINTER HIKING, TURNING TO FAT- TIRE BICYCLE RIDING. THERE’S FAT-TIRE BIKE TRACKS ALL OVER THE PLACE HERE WHERE PEOPLE ARE GETTING OUT ON A BIKE.>>Reporter: BERRY SAYS, WITH THE CHANGES, THERE ALSO COMES A NEW ANXIETY– LOSS OF IDENTITY AND EVEN LIVELIHOOD. (DOG BARKS) PETER McCLELLAND FINISHED 7th IN THE BEARGREASE. NOW, IT’S BACK TO WORK, GIVING PEOPLE A TASTE OF WINTER’S MAGIC. BUT HE SAYS, SOME YEARS, IT’S BEEN A SCRAMBLE.>>ONE OF THE PROBLEMS WITH THIS WHOLE CLIMATE CHANGE IN TOURISM: WHEN YOU GET A GOOD WINTER, IT’S OFF EVERYONE’S RADAR SCREEN. AND THEN, WE’LL HAVE TWO OR THREE MARGINAL WINTERS IN A ROW, AND IT’S ALL ANYONE’S TALKING ABOUT.>>Reporter: McCLELLAND LOVES WHAT HE DOES FOR A LIVING. YOU HAVE TO SINCE THERE’S LITTLE MONEY IN IT. BUT IT’S A PASSION HE KNOWS HE WON’T BE ABLE TO PASS ON TO HIS KIDS.>>I’D LOVE TO BE ABLE TO DO THAT, BUT, YOU KNOW, WE ARE GOING TO KEEP HAVING WINTERS. SO… BUT ARE WE GOING TO HAVE ENOUGH WEEKS OF WINTER THAT YOU CAN HAVE A BUSINESS THAT’S VIABLE?

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