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" 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 #4, Fall 2005

In this Issue

  1. Pacific Northwest climate forecast update
  2. Pacific Northwest streamflow forecast updates
  3. Washington State climate change conference documents available for download
  4. New climate change scenarios for the Pacific Northwest
  5. Puget Sound climate change report released
  6. CIG team members earn national recognition

1. Pacific Northwest climate forecast update

In the past two months, sea surface temperatures in the tropical Pacific have cooled slightly to favor ENSO-neutral or weak La Niña conditions. Sea surface temperatures in the north Pacific have also cooled, increasing the likelihood that the PDO will be near neutral or negative for the coming winter and spring. As a result of the near-neutral ENSO and PDO states, the climate outlook for the Pacific Northwest is generally for near-normal fall/winter/spring precipitation and temperatures. More details...

2. Pacific Northwest streamflow forecast updates

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

Wetter and colder than average conditions in the Pacific Northwest have improved the regional hydrologic outlook presented at the CIG's recent 2006 water year climate and water forecast meetings. In the October 26 meeting, Dr. Andy Wood summarized current hydrologic conditions (as of October 1) in which the lingering deficits in soil moisture, particularly in the Washington Cascades Mountains and the mountainous areas of Idaho and western Montana, would cause a slight reduction in the outlook for 2006 summer flows. For the Columbia River at The Dalles, Oregon, the reduction in the median forecast was about 2 percent, given a normal climate assumption. One of the hardest hit areas was the Yakima R. basin, where the reduction was closer to 7 percent.

Given the past month's cooler and wetter conditions, the expectation is now for normal to very slightly above normal flows at The Dalles and many other Columbia River streamflow locations. Graphical depictions of the more 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 website. These experimental real-time forecasts are updated monthly and are based on several climate forecast methods. A related effort, showing daily updates of hydrologic conditions throughout the U.S., can be found on the UW Experimental Surface Water Monitor website.

Puget Sound Regional Water Supply Forecast Update (Sultan, S. Fork Tolt, Cedar, Green, and White Rivers)

The Puget Sound Regional Water Supply Forecast is an experimental forecast product providing monthly updates of current and near future (1-6 month) conditions in the Sultan, S. Fork Tolt, Cedar, Green, and White River basins. Based on the current (favorable) conditions in the modeled Puget Sound watersheds, the projected ENSO neutral state (see the climate outlook), and forecasts from the Climate Prediction Center for slightly warmer winter temperatures, the ensemble forecast for Puget Sound streamflows is for average to above average monthly total flows for all modeled basins for the next 3 to 6 months. Additionally, the enhanced likelihood for a slightly cool PDO increases the probability of above average snowpack in some locations. For more information on the forecasts, please see the current Puget Sound Regional Water Supply Forecast report.

3. Technical documents for October 2005 Washington State Climate Change Conference available for download

King County, Washington, sponsored a major conference on October 27, 2005 on planning for climate change. The conference, titled "The Future Ain't What It Used to Be: Planning for Climate Disruption", brought 675 representatives from government, business, tribes, agriculture, non-profit organizations, and the community-at-large together to discuss the projected impacts of climate change on the Pacific Northwest and how Washington State (and the region at large) can prepare to adapt to those impacts.

The Climate Impacts Group prepared a variety of printed materials for the conference that have broad application to resource management in the Pacific Northwest. These materials include new climate change projections for the Pacific Northwest (see newsletter item #4), a White Paper on climate change impacts, sector-based fact sheets for the breakout sections, and primers on climate change science and policy. These materials are available for download on the CIG conference web page. Presentations and additional information on the conference are available on the King County conference web page. Media coverage of the conference is available here.

4. New climate change scenarios for the Pacific Northwest

(Note: The new temperature projections described below were corrected on 1.30.06. The previous values reported were associated with the old (circa 2001) scenarios)

In preparation for the October 27, 2005 Washington State climate change conference, the CIG developed new climate change scenarios for the Pacific Northwest based on climate simulations for the Fourth Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Assessment Report, due in 2007. The new scenarios project warming on the order of 0.7 to 3.2°F (0.4 to 1.8°C) by the 2020s and 1.4 to 4.6°F (0.8-2.6°C) by the 2040s. Warming is expected in all seasons and exceeds the range of variability seen during the 20th century. Projected changes in precipitation are less certain, but the majority of models project a slight increase in cool season (October-March) precipitation. This increase, however, is not expected to exceed the range of variability seen during the 20th century. More information on the new scenarios is available in the following documents from the 2005 Washington State Climate Change conference:

New Scenarios Data Sets

To facilitate use of the CIG's new climate change scenarios in research and decision support activities, the CIG has assembled a new series of data web pages providing detailed quantitative information, including new data sets. The first data set provides graphics, tables, and spreadsheets of several parameters that measure climate model performance and future trends in temperature and precipitation averaged for the Pacific Northwest. The second data set provides monthly-mean and daily meteorological parameters (temperature, precipitation, and winds) at 1/8-degree resolution over the Pacific Northwest. These data are suitable for a variety of quantitative analyses at local agencies, from computing statistical trends to driving physical models.

5. Puget Sound climate change report released

Uncertain Future: Climate Change and Its Effects on Puget Sound is a new report prepared by the CIG that examines the projected impacts of climate change on Puget Sound. Combining a review of current scientific literature and new research, the report provides a detailed assessment of how climate change has affected - and will continue to affect - the Puget Sound environment. Specific areas of focus include changes in regional climate, snowpack, streamflow, sea level rise, water quality, nearshore habitat, and salmon. The importance of planning for climate change is also discussed. The report was commissioned by the Puget Sound Action Team in the Washington State Office of the Governor.

6. CIG team members earn national recognition

Professor Edward L. Miles, Co-director of the Center for Science in the Earth System and team leader for the CIG, has been awarded the honor of Fellow in the Amercian Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). The honor is given to those who have made scientifically or socially distinguished efforts to advance science or its applications. Read more...

David L. Peterson, U.S. Forest Service Researcher and CIG collaborator, recently received the 2005 Scientific Achievement Award from the International Union of Forest Research Organizations (IUFRO) for his research findings and publishing achievements. Read more...