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 #25, Spring 2011

In this Issue

  1. Climate Outlook
  2. CIG Releases New Western U.S. Climate Dataset for Natural Resource Management and Planning
  3. 2nd annual PNW Climate Science Conference Scheduled
  4. The Swinomish Indian Tribal Community's Climate Change Initiative Adaptation Plan
  5. EcoHAB Project Receives Publicity Worldwide
  6. New Website Provides Valuable Information on Ocean Acidification
  7. Noteworthy Reports
  8. CIG in the News
  9. CIG publications

1. Climate Outlook

Recent Climate

The 90 days ending on April 25 were cooler than normal across the entire Pacific Northwest. The temperature departures from the 1971-2000 normal (in Fahrenheit) for the western US, indicate that much of the Pacific Northwest was between 2 and 4°F cooler than normal. Northern Montana was even cooler, with temperatures up to 8°F below normal during the last 90 days.

For precipitation, the last 90 days were wetter than normal for most of the Pacific Northwest. In percentage terms, the precipitation ranged between 110 and 200% of normal for the wet locations. There were some areas of below normal precipitation, such as south central WA, central OR, southwestern MT, and central ID that were between 70 and 90% of normal precipitation for the last 90 days.

The cooler and wetter than normal conditions, especially since the end of February, have greatly contributed to the snowpack in the Pacific Northwest. The snowpack, expressed as the percent of normal water content, is at least 125% of normal for most of the Pacific Northwest as of April 27. A few basins in central ID, where the 90-day precipitation was below normal, have snowpack that is closer to normal. The high snowpack bodes well for the summer water supply forecast, as the summer streamflow is projected to be above normal by the National Weather Service Northwest River Forecast Center (not shown).

ENSO conditions

Monitoring by the Climate Prediction Center (CPC) indicates a continued weakening of La Niņa conditions in the equatorial Pacific, observable in the upward trends in sea surface temperatrues (SSTs) for several regions of the equatorial Pacific Ocean. In the easternmost portion of the tropical Pacific (the Niņo 1+2 region) SST anomalies have been near neutral for the last couple of months. The Oceanic Niņo Index (ONI), a 3-month running mean of Niņo 3.4 region SSTs, reached a minimum value of -1.4°C late in 2010, implying that the past event could be categorized as moderate to strong. The consensus of the model forecasts indicate a transition from La Niņa to neutral ENSO conditions by summer, but it is still too early to make a reliable ENSO prediction for next winter.

Climate Outlook

What's next for the Pacific Northwest? The CPC May-June-July (MJJ) seasonal temperature outlook tilts the odds towards a continuation of below normal temperatures for western OR, most of WA, northern ID, and most of MT. The probability of below normal temperatures is higher for the Olympic Peninsula, northern WA, and northern MT than the other areas. The rest of OR and southern ID have equal chances of below, equal to, or above normal temperature for MJJ. In other words, the probability is split evenly split into a 33% for each of the three outcomes.

The MJJ precipitation is not influenced by any clear climate signals. The CPC outlook for most of the Pacific Northwest has equal chances of below, equal to, or above normal precipitation. The outlook does indicate that northeastern MT has chances exceeding 33% for above normal precipitation during MJJ.

2. CIG Releases New Western U.S. Climate Dataset for Natural Resource Management and Planning

The CIG has released a comprehensive dataset of downscaled climate data for five major basins in the Western U.S. that is designed to help natural resources managers incorporate climate change impacts into resource management planning and analysis.

The "Regional Climate and Hydrologic Change in the Northern U.S. Rockies and PNW" dataset provides an internally consistent set of historical (1916-2006) and future (2040s, 2080s) downscaled climate and hydrologic data and projections that can be tailored to management units in the Columbia , upper Missouri, Colorado, and Great Basins (Figure 1). Summary products developed for the project include the following:

Figure 1. Basins included in the "Regional Climate and Hydrologic Change in the Northern US Rockies and PNW" project. Map: Robert Norheim.

Data produced for the project include the following:

Figure 2. Change in July 1st soil moisture. This map compares soil moisture in the 2040s to the historical condition. Map: Robert Norheim.

Project data were generated using an ensemble of ten global climate models (GCMs) run with the A1B greenhouse gas emissions scenarios. Output from the GCMs were downscaled and used to drive the VIC hydrologic model to produce hydrologic scenarios. Data are available at the 1/16th degree (approx. 12.5 sq.mi.) scale for the Columbia, upper Missouri, and upper Colorado Basins, and at the 1/8th degree (approx. 50 sq.mi.) for Great Basin and lower Colorado basin. All project data are available for download for free.

Applications for the climate datasets include developing adaptation strategies, vulnerability assessments, climate impacts assessments, and specific resource modeling at landscape scales. The projected climate datasets have already been put to use in an assessment of climate impacts on wolverine habitat (see winter CIGnal newsletter #24), and in a forthcoming report on the response of Cutthroat trout habitat to climate change.

Future work on the dataset includes extending the work to include more GCM models and different downscaling methods for the purpose of looking at extreme and uncertainty across multiple models.

Funding for the project was provided by the United States Forest Service (USFS) Region 1, United States Fish and Wildlife Services, USFS Rocky Mountain Research Station Boise Aquatic Sciences Lab, and USFS Region 6. This research builds upon the considerable research effort and funding devoted to similar objectives at the CIG, such as the Washington Climate Change Impacts Assessment and the Columbia Basin Climate Change Scenarios Project.

More information on the "Regional Climate and Hydrologic Change" project and data access is available in the project's draft report. Please contact Jeremy Littell with any questions about the data or project.

3. 2nd annual PNW Climate Science Conference Scheduled

The second annual PNW Climate Science Conference will be held on September 13-14, 2011, on the University of Washington, Seattle campus. The conference is co-sponsored by a number of regional research groups and state and federal agencies, including the Climate Impacts Group, Oregon Climate Change Research Institute, Northwest Climate Change Collaboration, and Northwest Climate Science Center. The conference aims to stimulate a place-based (rather than discipline-based) exchange of information about emerging climate, climate impacts, and climate adaptation science in the PNW. This year's conference will consist of a combination of plenary sessions focusing on cross-cutting topics relevant to multiple disciplines as well as poster sessions. The conference will also include time for presentation of emerging policy and management goals, objectives, and information needs related to climate impacts and adaptation. Further details about the conference will be distributed via the CIG's "climateupdate" listserve. You can join the listserve by going to http://cses.washington.edu/cig/ and clicking on the "Join the CIG's listserve" box under the left side navigation menu. Details will also be posted on the conference website: http://cses.washington.edu/cig/outreach/pnwscienceconf2011/.

4. The Swinomish Indian Tribal Community's Climate Change Initiative Adaptation Plan

The Swinomish Indian Tribal Community (SITC) recently completed a two year climate change adaptation planning process that could serve as a model for other tribal communities interested in adapting to climate change.

The Swinomish Indian Reservation is located in Puget Sound on the southeastern peninsula of Fidalgo Island in Washington State. The geographic characteristics and coastal location of the Swinomish Indian Reservation place community assets, infrastructure, natural resources, sensitive cultural areas, low-lying economic development areas, and community health at risk from the impacts of climate change (SITC 2009, p.11).

With funding support from the Administration for Native Americans, the SITC worked with CIG and others in the community and the Skagit basin to assess the impacts of climate change on the SITC and to develop adaptation recommendations for addressing those impacts. The adaptation action plan was released in October 2010. Recommendations in the plan include a suite of regulatory and non-regulatory actions focusing on four main areas of concern: coastal resources, upland resources, physical health, and community infrastructure and services.

More information on the Swinomish adaptation plan and Climate Change Initiative is available on the project's website.

5. EcoHAB Project Receives Publicity Worldwide

Variations in the climate can create marine conditions that are favorable for the proliferation of oceanic pathogens, which pose risks to human health. This topic was highlighted in a symposium session on public health and changing ocean conditions at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) annual meeting this past February in Washington, D.C. Included in the session were studies on projections of the increased frequency and duration of harmful algal blooms (HABs) in the Puget Sound region.

Scientists at NOAA, in collaboration with CIG researchers, are using results from climate models to project the timing and extent of future conditions in the Puget Sound that are conducive to harmful blooms. The offending algae, Alexandrium catenella, can accrue in shellfish and induce acute reactions, including paralysis, in humans when the contaminated seafood is ingested. Results from this study indicate that blooms could start earlier in the year and endure longer seasonally in the future. This study and others were featured in news articles distributed worldwide.

For more information on the joint NOAA/CIG HAB work, see recent publications by Stephanie Moore (NOAA).

6. New Website Provides Valuable Information on Ocean Acidification

The carbon group at Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratories (PMEL) has launched a new website on the ocean carbon cycle and ocean acidification that provides valuable tools and information for researchers, educators, and the general public.

The improved website provides a comprehensive summary of past, current and forthcoming research on ocean conditions and interactions with rising atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) concentrations. For researchers and data consumers, research data is accessible and easy to explore using Google Earth. For educators and interested individuals, there are several tools available on the site that explain the various chemical interactions and responses to the ocean's uptake of atmospheric CO2, including information on the following:

News items related to ocean acidification are also included.

7. Noteworthy Reports

Literature Synthesis on Climate Change Implications for Water and Environmental Resources, 2nd Edition -- Bureau of Reclamation

The Bureau of Reclamation has released an update to its 2009 literature review on the implication of climate change on water and environmental resources.

The purpose of the review is to provide a synthesis of climate change studies relevant to Reclamation operations and activities in the 17 Western States. The information in the report can be used in longer-term planning studies such as National Environmental Policy Act environmental impact statements, biological assessments under Federal/State Endangered Species Act, and general planning feasibility studies.

The first review was completed in September 2009. The 2011 update maintains the original issue's synthesis framework. Key changes in the 2011 update include the addition of new literature published since approximately mid-2008 and additional synthesis in under-represented areas or sectors from the 2009 report. It is envisioned that the report will be updated annually to reflect ongoing research developments.

The State of Marine and Coastal Adaptation in North America: A Synthesis of Emerging Ideas -- EcoAdapt

EcoAdapt has released a new report summarizing scientific findings, adaptation options, and barriers to implementing actions addressing climate change impacts to marine and coastal systems.

The objective of the report is to highlight potential climate-induced impacts to built and natural coastal systems in North America, and to review the adaptation approaches used by coastal resource managers. The report is intended not only as an informational tool but also to serve as an inventory of case studies and projects designed to address climate change at a range of regional and jurisdictional levels.

The climate change impacts assessment includes rising temperatures (air and water), sea level rise, air and water circulation shifts, precipitation trends and effects on ocean chemistry. The review of adaptation measures is based on EcoAdapt's effort to survey and report on adaptation projects targeting marine environments throughout North America, including projects related to the following:

Since the adaptation measures depend on the type of impact in a given region, this section is further sub-divided into broad geographic regions. For example, increased regional ocean acidification is a major impact in the North Pacific (see previous newsletter topic), which is detrimental to shellfish production. In response, the Pacific Coast Shellfish Growers Association introduced the "Emergency Plan to Save Oyster Production" project incorporating such strategies as boosting long and short-term shellfish hatchery production and monitoring shellfish survival in estuaries, among others. Finally, any obstacles to implementing the adaptation plans are chronicled so that coastal managers can anticipate some of the problems that may arise.

Case Study Report on Assessing Vulnerability in Water Utility Practices -- USEPA

The USEPA has released a new report describing approaches currently being taken by four U.S. water utilities to assess their vulnerability to climate change: East Bay (CA), New York City, Seattle, Spartanburg (SC). The approaches taken by the different utilities range from sophisticated environmental modeling and scenario analysis to qualitative methods based on reviews of available literature. The case studies illustrate different approaches that reflect specific local needs and conditions, existing vulnerabilities, local partnerships, and available information about climate change. Information from these case studies will be of use to water utilities and other members of the water resources community to inform the development of strategies for understanding and responding to climate change.

CIG in the News



9. Recent CIG Publications

Posted May 4, 2011