Outreach, Classes, and Seminars

The Pacific Northwest Climate CIGnal

The Climate Impacts Group (CIG) issues a quarterly electronic newsletter designed to provide updates on regional climate and climate-related research, meetings, and topics of interest to Pacific Northwest (PNW) decision makers and resource managers. The first newsletter was distributed in January 2005.

To subscribe to the newsletter, please visit the CIG's "climateupdate" list serve home page. You can also subscribe to the newsletter by sending a blank email to the following address: climateupdate-subscribe@mailman.u.washington.edu.

The Pacific Northwest Climate CIGnal

Issue #15, Fall 2008

In this Issue

  1. Pacific Northwest climate outlook
  2. Pacific Northwest streamflow forecast updates
  3. Philip Mote named one of 25 Seattle's “most influential” in 2008
  4. New Idaho climate change research center funded
  5. Global carbon emissions continue to rise
  6. New paper explores the myth of the 1970s global cooling consensus
  7. Recent U.S. Climate Change Synthesis and Assessment reports
  8. U.S. Forest Service launches climate change clearinghouse
  9. Past and upcoming climate meetings
  10. Recent CIG publications

1. Pacific Northwest Climate Outlook

The Pacific Northwest (PNW) experienced near-normal temperatures and precipitation between June and September while ocean surface temperatures both along the coast and over the north Pacific exhibited large magnitude anomalies during the past year. Last year's La Niña has given way to ENSO-neutral conditions, reducing the forecast skill of climate models. Read more...

2. Pacific Northwest Streamflow Forecast Updates

West-wide Seasonal Hydrologic Forecasts Update (Columbia R., Snake R., and other western-U.S. rivers)

Temperatures and precipitation around the Pacific Northwest have been close to normal. While the streamflow forecasts made in July through September forecast wet conditions for the following six months, abnormally dry summer conditions over much of the interior Pacific Northwest resulted in near-normal streamflows in most of the stations of the Columbia River basin, and slightly below normal streamflows in 80% of the stations in the Snake River basin.

Few stations near The Dalles showed above normal streamflows, and by the second September forecast showed just one station (Swift) had values above normal. Some of the prevalent conditions in those areas along the coastal region of Washington and Oregon coincide with below normal Sea Surface Temperatures for the months prior to September 2008.

The October 15 th forecast shows that streamflows for the April-to-September 2009 period will be close to the mean for the Columbia and Snake River basins. In contrast, the six-month-lead forecast initialized in the same period shows that most of the Snake River basin stations are below normal, while the Columbia River basin registered just 30% of the stations below normal. These forecast streamflows are influenced by below normal soil moisture conditions in the southeastern portions of Washington, Eastern Oregon, and Southern Idaho.

Graphical depictions of recent estimates of soil moisture, snow water equivalent, and streamflow can be found at the University of Washington's West-wide Seasonal Hydrologic Forecast System web site. These experimental real-time forecasts are updated twice monthly (1st and the 15th) and are based on several climate forecast methods. A number of products at the web-site are also updated on a daily basis. These include basin-averaged water balance conditions for each forecast point, spatial maps of current conditions, and a spatial summary of snow water equivalent for the western U.S.

A related effort that offers daily updates of hydrologic conditions throughout the U.S., can be found on the UW Experimental Surface Water Monitor web site. The Surface Water Monitor shows daily updating estimates of hydrologic conditions throughout the U.S. The site also offers weekly projections for soil moisture and runoff across the U.S. for lead times up to 3 months.

3. Philip Mote Named One of 25 “Most Influential” in Seattle Magazine 's 2008 Power List

Congratulations to Philip Mote, CIG researcher and Washington State Climatologist, for making Seattle Magazine's 5th annual list of the 25 most influential people in the Puget Sound region in 2008. Phil's continued dedication to communicating research on climate impacts in a clear and easily understood manner, combined with rigorous scientific research on the impacts of climate variability and change in the Pacific Northwest, were factors in Phil's selection by Seattle Magazine.

Phil can add this recognition to a long list of honors, including a share of the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize awarded to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (Phil was a lead author for Chapter 4 in the IPCC's Working Group 1 assessment report) and a University of Washington 2008 Distinguished Staff Award. More information on Phil's recognition and the Top 25 list is available in the November issue of Seattle Magazine, now available on newsstands.

4. New Idaho Climate Change Research Center Funded

The National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded Idaho a five-year, $15 million grant that will support new faculty and facilities at the University of Idaho, Boise State University, and Idaho State University in an effort to understand the current and future impact of climate change on the Snake and Salmon River watersheds.

According to Von P. Walden, associate professor of geography at the University of Idaho and lead co-principal investigator, the project will focus on the effects of global warming on two very different watersheds in the state.

The Snake River Plain is a highly managed water resource that feeds agriculture and communities throughout the southern part of Idaho, while the Salmon River Basin is much less managed and contains some of the most pristine wilderness areas in the continental U.S.

Major research themes to be explored through the Water Resources in a Changing Climate project include:

The study will draw on the strengths of each university while using the NSF funds to hire 10 new faculty and purchase equipment to generate research in new areas. University of Idaho researchers will be involved in all three major research components of the grant: hydroclimatology, ecological interactions, and economics and water policy. The three universities will work closely with the Idaho Department of Water Resources and other agencies, which will provide valuable input.

The NSF grant was secured through Idaho's Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR). By combining the resources of the state's major research and partner institutions, EPSCoR allows scientists to share resources and make their combined grant proposals more appealing to federal funding sources.

For more information go to www.uidaho.edu/epscor. A fact sheet (pdf) on the Water Resources in a Changing Climate research program is also available.

This article was adapted from a September 19, 2008, posting in the Columbia Basin Bulletin.

5. Global CO2 Emissions on the Rise, 2000-2007

A new report from the Global Carbon Project finds that global emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) grew rapidly between 2000 and 2007, tracking above the highest CO2 emissions scenarios considered by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in its 2007 Fourth Assessment reports.

Anthropogenic (human-caused) CO2 emissions from fossil fuel use and cement production grew about four times faster between 2000 and 2007 than during the previous decade (3.5% per year in 2000-2007 versus 0.9% per year in 1990-1999). The atmospheric concentration of CO2 in 2007 was 383 parts per million (ppm), 37% above the pre-industrial (1750) concentration of 280 ppm.

More than half of global CO2 emissions now come from developing countries although historically, developing countries, which have 80% of the world's population, still account for only 20% of the cumulative emissions since 1751. The poorest countries in the world, with 800 million people, have contributed less than 1% of these cumulative emissions.

The Global Carbon Project also noted a decreased efficiency of natural carbon sinks such as the ocean and forests. Natural land and ocean CO2 sinks removed 54% of all CO2 emitted from human activities during the period 2000-2007 but are becoming less efficient as the rate of growth in atmospheric CO2 exceeds the ability of these sinks to absorb the excess carbon.

Presentations, data sources, and press releases on the Carbon Budget 2007 are available through the Global Carbon Project. The Global Carbon Project is a global network of scientists tracking emissions of CO2. The Global Carbon Project is supported by The Australian Greenhouse Office and The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation in Australia, and the National Institute for Environmental Studies and the Ministry of the Environment in Japan.

6. New Paper Explores the Myth of the 1970s Global Cooling Consensus

A new paper published in the September issue of the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society addresses a question often heard in public meetings on climate change and climate impacts: “How can there be consensus about global warming when scientists in the 1970s said we were headed for global cooling?”

“The Myth of the 1970s Global Cooling Consensus” discusses the origins of scientific and public discussions in the 1970s on global cooling, noting that while there was indeed a cooling trend in the mid-20 th century, the trend was driven largely by changes in the Northern Hemisphere; Southern Hemisphere data was simultaneously warming. Furthermore, a survey by the authors of peer-reviewed literature published between 1965 and 1979 reveals that papers on global cooling were a small component of the scientific literature of the time. A consensus that anthropogenic increases in greenhouse gases would become “one of the most important forces shaping Earth's climate” was already emerging within the scientific community by the late 1970s.

“The Myth of the 1970s Global Cooling Consensus” was written by Thomas C. Peterson (NOAA National Climatic Data Center), William M. Connolley (British Antarctic Survey, National Environment Research Council), and John Fleck (Albuquerque Journal ). Copies of the paper can be downloaded from the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society (pdf) or William Connolley's personal blog.

7. Recent U.S. Climate Change Synthesis and Assessment reports

As reported in the last Climate CIGnal, a series of national climate change reports known as the Synthesis and Assessment Products (SAPs) are currently being released by the Climate Change Science Program (CCSP). The SAPs draw from existing scientific literature to examine the impacts of climate change to U.S. agriculture, land and water resources, biodiversity, social systems, human health, transportation, and other sectors. Researchers at the CIG have contributed to several of these publications over the last two years. Reports likely to have most relevance to Climate CIGnal readers are highlighted as they are released. A complete list of SAP products, status reports, and other details is available through the CCSP.

SAP 3.1 - Climate Models: An Assessment of Strengths and Limitations (released 7.31.08)

SAP 3.1 describes the mathematical climate models used to simulate Earth's climate, assesses their ability to simulate observed climate, and assesses their sensitivity to changing concentrations of carbon dioxide. Written for “the non-specialist”, SAP 3.1 helps readers understand the strengths and weaknesses of global climate models. Fundamental questions addressed in the report include the following:

The report also describes “downscaling,” which is the use of methodologies to generate higher resolution information from global models results for applications on the regional and local scales. Several downscaling examples such as applications focusing on water resources and surface climate change are illustrated to demonstrate how model results can be applied to a diverse set of problems.

Full report (pdf)| Executive Summary (pdf)| Brochure (pdf) | Individual chapters (pdfs)

8. U.S. Forest Service Launches Climate Change Clearinghouse

The U.S. Forest Service has launched a new online reference site for resource managers and decision makers who need information and tools to address climate change in planning and project implementation in the West.

The Climate Change Resource Center (CCRC) is a site that connects climate change information generated by the Forest Service with those who need it. The CCRC provides information on basic climate sciences and offers materials and support needed to develop adaptation and mitigation strategies. The site offers educational information—including basic science modules that explain climate and climate impacts—as well as decision-support models, maps and simulations, and toolkits that address common Forest Service management and planning situations. In addition to a more technical subset of educational resources, the Web site also features materials—like a primer on climate change and a growing suite of video lectures—that might be of interest to nonspecialist audiences, like members of the media and other interested publics.

Adapted from USFS press release.

9. Past and Upcoming Climate Meetings

Information on several past and upcoming climate meetings will be of interest to ClimateCIGnal readers, including the following:

CIG's October Fall Forecast Meeting Presentations Posted

The CIG's 2009 Water Year climate and water forecast meetings were held on October 2 (Vancouver, WA) and October 16 (Boise, ID). The meetings combined attracted over 120 participants from a wide range of federal, state, and local government agencies, public and private utilities, non-governmental organizations, consulting firms, tribal government, and universities. Presentations included climate and water forecasts for the 2009 Water Year as well as the latest research on PNW climate change and climate impacts. More information on the meetings, including posted presentations and participant lists, is available on the climate and water forecast meeting web sites.

Puget Sound/Georgia Basin Ecosystem Conference – February 9-11, 2009, Seattle

The biennial Puget Sound Georgia Basin (PSGB) Ecosystem Conference will be held February 9-11, 2009, at the Washington State Convention Center in Seattle. The PSGB Conference is the largest, most comprehensive scientific research and policy conference in the Salish Sea region. The 2009 conference, hosted by the Puget Sound Partnership and Environment Canada, will build upon the experience of previous conferences by connecting scientific research and management techniques to priorities for meaningful action. Conference sub-themes include: Air Quality & Climate Change; Ecosystem Management Strategies and Techniques; Habitat, Land Use, and Species; and Marine & Freshwater Resources. More details are available on the PSGB conference website.

Washington State Climate Change Impacts Assessment Conference – February 12, 2009, Seattle

The CIG will convene a one day conference on February 12, 2009, at the Washington State Convention Center in Seattle to share the results of the first Washington State Climate Change Impacts Assessment. The assessment, funded by the Washington State Legislature, evaluates the impacts of climate change on the following sectors: agriculture, coasts, energy, forests, human health, hydrology and water resources, infrastructure (specifically related to stormwater management), and salmon. Updates on the conference, including announcements about the posting of the conference website, agenda, and registration information, will be available on the CIG website and through the CIG's climateupdate list serve.

Western Snow Conference - April 20-23, 2009, Canmore, Alberta

The 2009 Western Snow Conference will be held April 20-23, 2009, in Canmore, Alberta, Canada. The Western Snow Conference is an international forum for individuals and organizations to share scientific, management and socio-political information on snow and runoff. The principal aim of the Western Snow Conference is to advance snow and hydrological sciences. The 2009 conference theme is “What's Normal? Snow -- Past, Present and the Future”. Likely topics for the conference include Snow and Ecology; Snow: Past, Present, and Future; Validation of Snow Studies; and Climatology of Snow.

In addition to the conference, a short course and panel discussion is being planned for Monday, April 20, titled “30-Year Normals: Know Your Normals”. Many agencies use 30 year normals on a daily basis for comparison of current conditions. This will provide a forum to discuss origination, history, usage by states and provinces, future use in changing climatic conditions, implementation schedule of new normals, and more. Additional information about the conference will be posted on the WSC web page.

2009 AWRA Spring Specialty Conference: Managing Water Resources & Development in a Changing Climate – May 4-6, 2009, Anchorage

The American Water Resources Association will host a Spring Specialty Conference “Managing Water Resources & Development in a Changing Climate” in Anchorage, Alaska, on May 4-6, 2009. Meeting topics will include meeting future water-supply needs, drought and flood co-management, ecosystem impacts, and water-management challenges. More details are available on the AWRA's conference website.

10. Recent CIG Publications

Recent CIG publications include the following:

For copies of these papers, please contact the CIG. A complete listing of CIG publications is available on the CSES publications page.

Posted October 30, 2008