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: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Pacific Northwest Climate CIGnal
Issue #17, Spring 2009
In this Issue
- Pacific Northwest Climate Outlook
- Pacific Northwest Streamflow Forecast Update
- The Washington Climate Change Impacts Assessment Conference and Draft Report
- Report on Climate Change Impacts to the Willamette Valley Now Available
- New Guides on Answering Common Climate Change Questions Available
- USBOR Report Examines the Impacts of Climate Change on Boise River Reservoir Operations
- Additional Adaptation Guidebook Copies Available
- Workshops, Conferences, and Other Events of Note
- Recent CIG Publications
- CIG in the News
The NOAA Climate Prediction Center May-June-July forecast is for a greater than 33% chance of above normal temperatures in eastern Oregon and southern Idaho, and a greater than 33% chance of below normal temperatures along the Oregon and Washington coasts (map) This forecast is a change from the cooler than normal conditions that enveloped the region in March-April. The precipitation forecast is for an even chance of below, equal to, and above normal precipitation along the PNW coast; and a greater than 33% chance of below normal precipitation in the remainder of the region, exceeding 40% in central and southern Idaho. Read more...
West-wide Seasonal Hydrologic Forecasts Update (Columbia R., Snake R., and other western-U.S. rivers)
Negative-to-neutral ENSO conditions have produced a relatively cold and wet winter in much of the PNW. This has been observed in many areas except the northwesternmost part of Washington State and southeast Oregon. Despite this, snowpack over PNW has been particularly variable with below normal values over the central part of the Columbia River basin in British Columbia, western Montana, Central Idaho and some portions of the Cascades. Soil moisture conditions (which are influenced by snowpack and precipitation) over the Columbia River basin have similar patterns of spatial variability as those for snowpack. Soil moisture shows low values concentrated over the eastern and central Oregon and parts of central Washington and southern British Columbia. All of these regions showed soil moisture percentiles below 30% for mid-April.
Soil moisture conditions and the trend toward ENSO-neutral conditions produce April to September streamflow forecasts that vary spatially from the latitudinal extremes of the Columbia River Basin. For example, April to September streamflows for the eastern Snake River basin are projected to be normal to below normal. The streamflow forecast for stations near the Oregon-Idaho border are predominantly below normal. On the other hand, the streamflow forecast for stations over the Washington-British Columbia-Idaho border is around normal. Above normal forecast streamflow values occur intermittently between Box Canyon station and the westernmost Columbia River stations, where above normal values in the latter stations are dominant. This includes The Dalles, where forecast streamflow values for April to September are 5% above of the normal streamflows for the peak flow in June (1960-1999).
About the Forecasts. 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.
On February 12, 2009, more than 600 representatives from federal, state, tribal, county, and local governments, the non-profit sector, and private business came together to learn about the results of the first-ever Washington Climate Change Impacts Assessment (WACCIA). The Assessment, released in draft on February 11, 2009, provides the latest information on how climate change may affect eight key sectors of the Washington environment and economy: agriculture, coasts, energy production and demand, forests, human health, salmon, urban stormwater infrastructure, and water resources. Key findings from the WACCIA include the following:
- Climate scenarios - Global climate models project increases in average annual Pacific Northwest temperature of 2.0°F by the 2020s, 3.2°F by the 2040s, and 5.3°F by the 2080s (compared to 1970-1999). Projected changes in annual precipitation, averaged over all models, are small (+1 to +2%), but some models project an enhanced seasonal precipitation cycle with changes toward wetter autumns and winters and drier summers. For more details, see Mote and Salathé 2009 (updated 6.30.09).
- Hydrology - April 1 snowpack is projected to decrease by 28% across the state by the 2020s, 40% by the 2040s, and 59% by the 2080s (relative to the 1916-2006 historical average). As a result, seasonal streamflow timing will likely shift significantly in sensitive watersheds. For more details, see Elsner et al. 2009.
- Water supply: Puget Sound - Puget Sound water supplies will see a shift in the timing of peak river flow from late spring (driven by snowmelt) to winter (driven by precipitation) and reduced levels of summer and fall storage. However, Puget Sound water supply systems will generally be able to accommodate changes through the 2020s in the absence of any significant demand increases. For more details, see Vano et al. 2009(a).
- Water supply: Yakima - The Yakima basin reservoir system will likely be less able (compared to 1970-2005) to supply water to all users, especially those with junior water rights. Without adaptation, shortages would likely occur 32% of years in the 2020s, 36% of years in the 2040s, and 77% of years in the 2080s (compared to 14% of years for the period 1916-2006). Due to lack of irrigation water and more frequent and severe prorating, average production of apples and cherries would likely decline by approximately $23 million (about 5%) in the 2020s and $70 million (about 16%) in the 2080s. For more details, see Vano et al. 2009(b).
- Energy - Annual hydropower production (assuming constant installed capacity) is projected to decline by a few percent due to small changes in annual stream flow, but seasonal changes will be substantial. On the demand side, population growth is expected to increase winter heating demand even as winter temperatures warm. Summer cooling demand is expected to increase significantly – on the order of 363-555% by the 2040s - due to the combined effects of population growth and warmer summer temperatures. For more details, see Hamlet 2009.
- Agriculture - Assuming no reduction in irrigation supplies, the impact of climate change on apples, potatoes, and wheat in eastern Washington is projected to be mild in the short term (i.e., next two decades), but increasingly detrimental with time, with potential yield losses reaching 25% for some crops by the end of the century. For more details, see Stöckle et al. 2009.
- Salmon - Rising stream temperatures will likely reduce the quality and extent of freshwater salmon habitat. The duration of periods that cause thermal stress and migration barriers to salmon is projected to at least double (low emissions scenario, B1) and perhaps quadruple (medium emissions scenario, A1B) by the 2080s for most analyzed streams and lakes. The greatest increases in thermal stress would occur in the Interior Columbia River Basin and the Lake Washington Ship Canal. For more details, see Mantua et al. 2009.
- Forests - Due to increased summer temperature and decreased summer precipitation, the area burned by fire regionally is projected to double by the 2040s and triple by the 2080s (relative to 1916-2006). The probability that more than two million acres will burn in a given year is projected to increase from 5% (observed) to 33% by the 2080s. Primarily east of the Cascades, mountain pine beetles will likely reach higher elevations and pine trees will likely be more vulnerable to attack by beetles. For more details, see Littell et al. 2009.
- Coasts - Sea level rise will shift coastal beaches inland and increase erosion of unstable bluffs. Major ports likely will be able to accommodate rising sea level at their facilities but adapting low-lying coastal transportation networks that serving port facilities (e.g., trains, highways) will be a significant challenge. Shellfish production in the state will possibly be negatively impacted by increasing ocean temperatures and acidity, shifts in disease and growth patterns, and more frequent harmful algal blooms. For more details, see Huppert et al. 2009.
- Urban stormwater infrastructure - Although few statistically significant changes in extreme precipitation have been observed to date in the Puget Sound, the Spokane area, or Vancouver/Portland, regional climate model simulations generally predict increases in extreme high precipitation over the next half-century, particularly around Puget Sound. In that region, existing drainage infrastructure designed using mid-20th century rainfall records may be subject to rainfall regimes that differ from current design standards. For more details, see Rosenberg et al. 2009.
- Health - Climate change in Washington State will likely lead to significantly more heat and air pollution-related deaths throughout this century. Projected warming would likely result in 101 additional deaths among persons aged 45 and above during heat events in 2025 and 156 additional deaths in 2045 in the greater Seattle area alone (relative to 1980-2006). By mid-century, King County will likely experience 132 additional deaths between May and September annually due to worsened air quality caused by climate change. For more details, see Jackson et al. 2009.
- Adaptation - Preparing for (or adapting to) the impacts of climate change is necessary to minimize the negative consequences, and maximize the benefits, of climate change in Washington State. Navigating Washington's changing future will require regulatory, legal, institutional, and cultural changes to reduce the barriers that limit developing a more climate resilient Washington. Options for adapting to climate change are varied and the choices made by any one community will depend on how climate change may affect a specific community's interests, the resources available to that community, and their risk tolerance. For more details see Whitely Binder et al. 2009.
Presentations from the conference are available on the WACCIA conference website as Power Point files or as streaming audio files. We anticipate release of the final, copy-edited WACCIA report in June 2009.
The WACCIA was funded by the Washington State legislature in 2007. Support for the conference was generously provided by NOAA, the Bullitt Foundation, the Washington Department of Ecology, and King County, Washington.
The Oregon Climate Leadership Initiative, in partnership with the National Center for Conservation Science and Policy and the USDA Forest Service Pacific Northwest Research Station, has released an assessment of climate change impacts on the Upper Willamette River basin. The study begins with a summary of projected changes in temperature, precipitation, snowpack, storms, flooding, wildfire, and vegetation changes for the basin. The impacts of these projected changes on natural and human systems are evaluated, and recommendations for preparing for the impacts of climate change provided. Key findings from the study include:
- Annual average temperatures are likely to increase from 2 to 4ºF (1 to 2ºC) by around 2040 and an additional 6 to 8º F (3 to 4ºC) by around 2080. Summer temperature increases are expected to be larger than increases in winter temperature.
- Increasing temperature is likely to benefit warm water native species and non-native fishes and amphibians while harming native species that rely on cooler water.
- Increased summer drought and evapotranspiration could lead to seasonal water shortage in the McKenzie watershed, an important water supply source for the City of Eugene in the summer months.
- Increased flooding and wildfire is likely to produce greater risks for buildings, transportation systems, and other public infrastructure, especially in floodplains and areas within the wildland-urban interface.
- Increases in ground level ozone, increased allergens, degraded air quality, and potentially increased wildfire will likely cause higher rates of asthma and other respiratory diseases.
- Climate change impacts should be incorporated into land use planning, regulation, and zoning; emergency management; public health practices; agricultural and forestry management; and the manufacturing, retail, and service sectors. Specific recommendations for each sector are provided.
“Preparing for Climate Change in the Upper Willamette River Basin of Western Oregon: Co-Beneficial Planning for Communities and Ecosystems” is available for download from the Oregon Climate Leadership Initiative. A similar study was produced for the Rogue River basin in December 2008.
Two new documents aimed at helping public understanding of climate change are now available.
Climate Literacy: The Essential Principles of Climate Science. NOAA has released a new 13-page guide on climate literacy that defines important terms and concepts used when talking about climate and approaches to adaptation and mitigation. The guide is described by Tom Karl, director of NOAA's National Climatic Data Center, as “a first step for people who want to know more about the essential principles of our climate system, how to better discern scientifically credible information about climate, and how to identify problems related to understanding climate and climate change." The guide was compiled by an interagency group led by NOAA and is a product of the U.S. Climate Change Science Program.
Setting the Record Straight: Responses to Common Challenges to Climate Science. This 9-page document, prepared by the Oregon Climate Leadership in partnership with the Climate Impacts Group and the UW Department of Atmospheric Sciences, aims to provide scientifically credible responses to some of the most commonly heard challenges to the reality, causes, and trajectory of human-induced climate change.
6. Bureau of Reclamation Report Examines the Impacts of Climate Change on Boise River Reservoir Operations
The Effects of Climate Change on the Operation of Boise River Reservoirs, Initial Assessment Report, released by The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation in November 2008, provides an initial assessment of the effects of climate change on the management of reservoirs in the Boise River Basin in southwest Idaho. The analysis examined two central issues: 1) how climate change may affect water supply, reservoir refill, water deliveries, water rights distribution, and minimum streamflows; and 2) the adequacy of existing flood control regulations and practices in light of climate change. Winter (Jan-March) flooding on the Boise River is projected to be the most significant climate change impact on the Boise River. The report notes that “existing flood control regulations, which were developed from observed inflows spanning 1895 to 1980, are not adequate to manage the spring runoff resulting from climate change, the majority of which will arrive up to two weeks earlier than anticipated.”
The Climate Impacts Group is pleased to announce the availability of more hard copies of the CIG/King County adaptation guidebook Preparing for Climate Change: A Guidebook for Local, Regional, and State Governments. Since its release in September 2007, more than 2000 copies of the guidebook have been distributed in hard copy or electronically to locations around the world, including Croatia, England, Japan, South Africa, Brazil, Australia, and Namibia.
To request a hard copy of the guidebook, please email the CIG. The guidebook can also be download electronically by individual chapters or in its entirety from the guidebook website. The CIG would like to thank the Bullitt Foundation for providing the funds for a second run of the guidebook.
Documentary on Ocean Acidification Coming to Seattle
A full-length film documentary on ocean acidification (“A Sea Change”) will be screened on June 1st and 2nd at the 35th Annual Seattle International Film Festival. The documentary features CIG Director Ed Miles, among others. Film producers Barbara Ettinger and Sven Huseby will stay after the screenings for a panel discussion on the film. Show times are Monday, June 1, 7:00 pm at the Egyptian Theatre and Tuesday, June 2, 4:00 pm at the Kirkland Performance Center. (Watch trailer)
- The University of Washington Law School will host Three Degrees: The Law of Climate Change and Human Rights Conference on May 28-29, 2009, in Seattle. The conference will bring legal practitioners and scholars from a range of disciplines together with an international body of relief organizations and peoples impacted most heavily by climate change to discuss the application of human rights law to the impending climate crisis. The centerpiece of the conference, a Socratic (Fred Friendly) dialogue moderated by a former PBS facilitator, will challenge panelists to debate legal responses to a fictitious disaster scenario based on a two to three degree centigrade rise in the Earth's temperature.
- USEPA Region 10 and EPA's National Center for Environmental Research are hosting a free workshop titled “The Plight of Ecosystems in a Changing Climate: Impacts on Services, Interactions, and Responses Workshop” on May 27-28, 2009 in Seattle. The meeting is open to the public but registration is required.
- Washington State University is hosting the 2009 Water and Land Use in the Pacific Northwest: Integrating Communities and Watersheds Conference at Skamania Lodge in Stevenson, Washington, November 4-6, 2009. The conference merges the best available water science and land-use knowledge to promote collaboration between scientists, planners, and decision-makers on sustainable land-use methodologies. Themes for the conference include “Planning for Climate Change: Adaptation and/or Mitigation”.
For more information on these events, please visit the event's website.
Recent CIG publications include the following:
- Adam, J.C., A.F. Hamlet, and D.P. Lettenmaier. 2009. Implications of global climate change for snowmelt hydrology in the 21st century. Hydrological Processes 23(7), 962-972.
- Avise, J., J. Chen, B. Lamb, C. Wiedinmyer, A. Guenther, E.P. Salathé, and C.F. Mass. 2009. Attribution of projected changes in U.S. ozone and PM 2.5 concentrations to specific global changes. Atmospheric Chemistry & Physics 9: 1111-1124.
- Brown, R.D., and P.W. Mote. 2009. The response of Northern Hemisphere snow cover to a changing climate. Journal of Climate , doi: 10.1175/2008JCLI2665.1.
- Chen, J., J. Avise, B. Lamb, E.P. Salathé, C.F. Mass, A. Guenther, C. Wiedinmyer, J-F. Lamarque, S. O'Neill, D. McKenzie, and N. Larkin. 2009. The effects of global changes upon regional ozone pollution in the United States. Atmospheric Chemistry & Physics 9: 1125-1141.
- Doppelt, B., C.S. Bretherton, N.J. Mantua, and P.W. Mote. 2009. Setting the record straight: Responses to common challenges to climate science. White paper prepared by the University of Oregon's Climate Leadership Initiative in partnership with the University of Washington's Climate Impacts Group. January 2009.
- Fontaine, M., and A.C. Steinemann. 2009. Assessing vulnerability to natural hazards: An impact-based method and application to drought in Washington State. Natural Hazards Review 10(1):11-18.
- Hidalgo, H., T. Das, M. Dettinger, D.R. Cayan, D. Pierce, T. Barnett, G. Bala, A, Mirin, A.W. Wood, C. Bonfils, B.D. Santer, and T. Nozawa. 2009. Detection and attribution of streamflow timing change in the Western United States. Journal of Climate doi: 10.1175/2009JCLI2470.1 (early online release version).
- McKenzie, D., D.L. Peterson, and J.S. Littell. 2009. Global warming and stress complexes in forests of western North America. pp. 319-337. In S. V. Krupa (series editor), Developments in Environmental Science, Vol. 8, Wild Land Fires and Air Pollution, A. Bytnerowicz, M. Arbaugh, A. Riebau, and C. Anderson (eds.). Amsterdam, The Netherlands: Elsevier Science, Ltd.
- Slaughter, R. 2009. A transactions cost approach to the theoretical foundations of water markets. Journal of the American Water Resources Association 45(2): 331-342.
Recent media stories featuring CIG research and/or researchers include the following:
- In short term, climate change effects could be boon for farmers, The Spokesman-Review, March 9, 2009
- Climate change may squeeze hydropower, but boost winter wheat, KUOW (94.9 FM) News, February 12, 2009
- State not ready for 'climate refugees': Scientists warn of migration, sickness, The Seattle Post-Intelligencer, February 12, 2009
- Report: Climate change to wallop state, The Seattle Times, February 11, 2009
- Less water, more heat forecast for state, The Seattle Post-Intelligencer, February 11, 2009
- Study: Climate change to impact Washington, KOMO 4 News, February 11, 2009
- Dirty snow causes early runoff in Cascades, KATU 2 News (Portland, OR), January 13, 2009
Seattle's KUOW (94.9 FM), Weekday (February 11, 2009) - CIG researchers Philip Mote and Marketa McGuire Elsner, along with Jay Manning, the director of Washington State's Department of the Ecology, discuss the results of the Washington Climate Change Impacts Assessment Report. (Listen to the program, length: 60 minutes)
Additional news items are available at CIG in the News.
Posted April 30, 2009