Outreach, Classes, and Seminars

A quarterly newsletter on Pacific Northwest climate, climate research, and impacts

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" listserve 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 #, May 2005

In this Issue

  1. Is the drought over?
  2. New tools from CIG and UW Hydrology
  3. Climate outlook
  4. Meeting on climate and natural resource management, Portland 28-30 June
  5. Profile of CIG's team captain, Ed Miles

1. Is the drought over?

Several weeks of above-average rainfall throughout the Northwest have led some people to wonder whether the winter drought has been erased. The definition of drought depends not just on the cumulative precipitation deficit since some date in the past, but also on the local situation and the type of water use.

The Climate Impacts Group held a meeting on March 21 to quantify the likely future course of the drought and to hear some agency perspectives on managing a drought.

Obeying Murphy's Law, our drought meeting broke the region's dry spell. Precipitation from then to now was 150-200% of normal almost everywhere in the Northwest. Some of that added to the mountain snowpack, allowing a recovery from roughly 20% of average to 30% of average, but there is very little snow left now below 5,000 feet and most of the region remains at risk for low summer streamflows and soil moisture (see next item).

2. New tools

In addition to the ensemble streamflow forecasting tools highlighted in the last issue of the CIGnal, current research initiatives in the Dept. of Civil and Environmental Engineering offer real-time assessment and prediction of hydrologic conditions and streamflow.

On a nation-wide scale, Professors Dennis Lettenmaier and Andy Wood of the Land Surface Hydrology Research Group have created the UW Experimental Surface Water Monitor, which shows daily maps of soil moisture and snowpack conditions (as well as an archive for comparison of conditions extending back to 1915)

For the Puget Sound Region, Professor Richard Palmer's Water Resources Management and Drought Planning Group produces monthly to seasonal ensemble streamflow forecasts.

3. Climate outlook

The latest seasonal forecasts from NOAA's Climate Prediction Center call for a slight tilt in the odds favoring a warm spring and summer for the western parts of Oregon and Washington, and below-average summer precipitation. In short, odds are poor that the drought that developed (or in some areas continued) last winter will be erased by continued heavy precipitation.

4. Meeting on climate and natural resource management, Portland 28-30 June

Calendar Notice - although not sponsored by CIG, this conference aligns well with CIG's objective of "Bringing Climate into Natural Resource Management." It will be held in Portland June 28-30.

5. Profile of CIG's team captain, Ed Miles

The Climate Impacts Group was the brainchild of Edward L Miles, Professor of Marine Affairs. Marine Affairs, what does that have to do with climate, you ask? Ed's background was in international relations and he is known particularly for his work on policies regarding global commons, including the Law of the Sea. He grew interested in climate change in the late 1980s as another commons issue, and following a sabbatical stint with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change he wanted to form a team to study the impacts of climate change on a regional scale. After much wrangling with federal agencies, the Climate Impacts Group came into being in 1995.

Born in Trinidad, where he played in a steel drum band for a while, Ed came to the U.S. to attend college at Howard University in Washington DC, then earned a PhD in International Relations at the University of Denver. He came to UW in 1974 and from 1982 to 1993 served as the director of the School of Marine Affairs (SMA). Although not trained as a scientist, his scientific accomplishments are widely recognized and he was elected to the prestigious National Academy of Sciences in 2003. He enjoys music of many varieties, especially opera. He has two grown children in the Seattle area and one grandchild.