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 #5, Winter 2006

In this Issue

  1. Pacific Northwest climate outlook
  2. Pacific Northwest streamflow forecast updates
  3. 2005: Warmest year on record?
  4. 2006 Oregon coho marine survival forecast
  5. New climate change scenarios added to the CIG website
  6. Guest article: CIG and NRCS working together to improve water supply forecasts
  7. CIG in the news: Recent media stories
  8. New CIG publications

1. Pacific Northwest climate outlook

Winter to date in the Pacific Northwest has been unusually mild for the most part. Although December was somewhat cooler than average, January was the 5th warmest in 112 years for the Northwest as a whole (+6.3°F above average). It was also the second wettest January on record, with almost double the average precipitation. Neither of these features - unusually warm and wet - can be attributed to the current state of the El Niño/Southern Oscillation. In fact, current tropical sea surface temperatures are comparable to those during the weak 2000-01 La Niña - a period notable for bringing severe drought to the PNW. Read more...

2. Pacific Northwest streamflow forecast updates

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

April through September streamflow for the Columbia and Snake River basins is projected to be average (Columbia River) to above average (Snake River) as a result of current snowpack and soil moisture conditions in these basins. 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 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. January's exceptionally wet and warm conditions brought above average streamflow volumes in all four modeled basins in January and average to above average snow accumulation in the mountains, particularly at higher (+4,000 feet) elevations. Based on the current conditions in the watersheds, the recent development of the La Niña, and the Climate Prediction Center's forecasts for normal February-March-April temperatures, total monthly streamflows for February, March, and April are projected to be near average. More information on the forecast is available in the current Puget Sound Regional Water Supply Forecast report.

3. 2005: Warmest year on record?

2005 may - or may not - have been the warmest year on record depending on how research centers account for large temperature anomalies in the Arctic.

A review of global temperatures in 2005 by NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies found 2005 to be the warmest year on record since the late 1800s. Global average temperature for combined land and ocean surfaces was +1.04°F (0.58°C) above the 1880-2004 average of 56.9°F (13.9°C). NASA's analysis ranked 2005 above 1998, the previous record holder, primarily because of the “remarkable” Arctic temperatures seen in 2005 and how those temperatures were extrapolated into the data sets.

In contrast, NOAA's National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) considers 2005 statistically indistinguishable from 1998. Evaluation of different data sets by NCDC found that in one case 2005 edged out 1998 as the warmest year while in the other case, 2005 was a close second. As with NASA's analysis, methods for extrapolating data in sparsely monitored areas such as the Arctic can contribute to small differences in temperature that can affect how individual years are ranked. Differences in the choice of monitoring stations and analyses of sea surface temperature data from satellites can also lead to incremental differences in temperature that ultimately affect an individual year's ranking.

Regardless of how 2005 is ranked, it is important to note the absence of any El Niño influence on global average temperature in 2005. (El Niño events may increase global average temperatures through their influence on atmospheric circulation patterns.)

Additionally, while 1998 is known for being the warmest (or second warmest) year on record, trends in global temperatures over the last seven years now mean that global surface temperatures are approximately equal to the record-setting temperature in 1998.

For more information:

4. 2006 Oregon coho marine survival forecast

Marine survival rates for Oregon coho salmon are influenced by several sequential environmental processes that affect coastal ocean food webs. Each February, the CIG and NOAA Fisheries release a preliminary forecast of Oregon coho marine survival rates based on these processes.

Ocean conditions, as measured by the tool, were extremely poor for OPI coho smolts in 2005. The spring transition was one of the latest on record and spring sea level was one of the highest (low sea level is indicative of good upwelling and strong north-south transport). Additionally, January-March sea surface temperature (SST) in 2005 was above average and unfavorable, and January SST in 2006 was well above average and unfavorable. As a result of these conditions, the mean forecasted return rate for fall 2006 Oregon coho is approximately 0 to 0.8% (+/- 0.8%). [Note that during past years with such unfavorable conditions (like 1983 and 1997 outmigration years), the model has predicted near-zero survival rates while actual observations were ~2% for 1983 and ~1% for 1997 outmigrants, respectively.] An updated forecast will be released in April.

More details on the current forecast.

5. New climate change scenarios added to the CIG website

The CIG's climate change scenarios web page has been updated to include information on the new Pacific Northwest climate change scenarios released in October 2005. The new scenarios project warming on the order of 1.9°F (1.1°C) by the 2020s and 2.9°F (1.6°C) by the 2040s for the Pacific Northwest. The updated web page now provides additional detail on the climate models and emissions scenarios used, summary data for changes in monthly, seasonal, and annual average temperature and precipitation, and an overview of how the new scenarios compare to previous scenarios. For more information, see the climate change scenarios web page.

Detailed quantitative information on the new scenarios is available on the CIG's data archive for projected PNW climate. These data are suitable for a variety of quantitative analyses, from computing statistical trends to driving physical models.

6. Guest article: CIG and NRCS working together to improve water supply forecasts

The National Water and Climate Center at the USDA's Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) and the University of Washington have been working collaboratively to improve western U.S. streamflow forecasts through innovations such as the UW's Westwide Seasonal Hydrologic Forecast System. This guest article, written by NRCS, highlights the value of government/university partnerships for technology exchange and improved decision support. Read more...

7. CIG in the news: Recent media stories

Recent media stories featuring CIG research and/or researchers include the following:

Additional news items are available at CIG in the News.

8. New CIG publications

The following forestry-related journal articles were recently published:

For copies of these papers, please contact the CIG.