Date of this Version
The Center for Great Plains Studies has, for the past decade and a half, hosted annual symposia that draw scholars to address topics of regional interest. The symposium topic for 1990, "Climate Change on the Great Plains," was most timely, given the growing concern with global warming heightened by several years of drought stress in the late 1980s. Interest in this topic has a long lineage in the Center: the ninth symposium, in 1985, addressed "Social Adaptation to Semiarid Environments," and issues of drought and environment have appeared often in the pages of Great Plains Quarterly. The 1990 symposium comprised 30 papers by university and government scholars in agricultural economics, agricultural meteorology, animal science, English, geography, geology, meteorology, natural hazards, parks and recreation, and remote sensing. An art exhibition ("Of the Sky"), a poetry reading, and special addresses (including one by Ian Frazier, author of Great Plains) also occurred.
A scientific consensus has emerged that the future of the Great Plains in a globally warmer climate will likely be hotter and drier than the last half of the twentieth century. Several authors in this issue provide citations to the work of modelers to support that supposition. We do not yet know with any certainty, however, what spatial and temporal patterns such changes will entail. Standing at the threshold of the new century, what can we say about the impacts of climate changes on the Great Plains by looking back? What lessons might we draw from those changes that will guide us into the uncertain future? The papers in this first issue of Great Plains Research, all drawn from the 1990 Symposium, address those questions.