Historical Climate Variation and Agricultural Adaptations in Kansas and the Great Plains

By Ian Howard and John Harrington, Jr..

Published by The International Journal of Climate Change: Impacts and Responses

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Agriculture is the primary economic sector in the central Great Plains. The nexus of climate change, shifting water resource availability, and a transforming energy sector places the region at a critical juncture. For this paper, we review what has been written about the impacts of climate variability on agriculture, with an emphasis on examples from Kansas and Nebraska from the historical period. While our findings reflect the detailed understanding that comes from qualitative assessment of the context and conditions specific to a place, we recognize the development of a resilient mindset within the region’s agricultural producers that have “weathered the storms” of the past. Our synthesis includes discussion of the magnitude of the climate variations, the types of agricultural adaptations, and an indication of the rate at which the agricultural sector responded.

Keywords: Great Plains Climate, Drought and Floods, Agricultural Adaptation, Historical Perspective

The International Journal of Climate Change: Impacts and Responses, Volume 4, Issue 4, pp.39-55. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 880.081KB).

Ian Howard

Graduate Research Assistant, Geography, Kansas State University, Manhattan, KS, USA

Ian Howard is a graduate student in Geography at Kansas State University. He received his bachelor’s degree in history at Kansas State, graduated summa cum laude, and is a member of Phi Beta Kappa. His research interests include historic human-environment interactions, historical and paleoclimatology, synoptic climatology, and bioclimatology. In particular, Ian has extensively studied the interaction between settlers and the environment during the westward expansion of the United States in the 19th century.

John Harrington, Jr.

Professor, Department of Geography, Kansas State University, Manhattan, Kansas, USA

John Harrington, Jr. is a Professor and former Department Head in the Department of Geography at Kansas State University. His research and teaching interests include the human dimensions of global change, remote sensing of land cover change, climate science, GIScience applications in local resource management, and geographic education. Dr.Harrington, Jr. has considerable experience working on interdisciplinary teams to address research questions related to challenges associated with coupling natural and human systems, including adaptation to climate variability and change.


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