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 #8, Fall 2006

In this Issue

  1. Pacific Northwest climate outlook
  2. Pacific Northwest streamflow forecast update
  3. New UW hydrologic monitoring and prediction system for Washington State
  4. CIG paper calls attention to the need for a National Climate Service
  5. U.N. says 2005 set greenhouse gas record
  6. U.S. moves closer to a national drought warning system
  7. CIG annual climate and water fall forecast meetings
  8. CIG in the news: Recent media stories
  9. New CIG publications

1. Pacific Northwest climate outlook

After one of the driest summers in state history, November was a record or near-record wet month at many stations in western Washington and western Oregon.

What does this mean for the fall's El Niño forecast? The El Niño forecasted in early fall has developed in the tropical Pacific and is expected to peak between December 2006 and February 2007. El Niño events increase the odds for - but do not always mean - warmer and drier conditions in the Pacific Northwest. Seasonal outlooks for the Pacific Northwest winter still suggest a tilt in the odds towards a warmer and drier winter for much of the state, especially in Eastern Washington and Idaho.

Read more about the unusual November conditions and current climate outlook:

2. Pacific Northwest streamflow forecast update

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 during November have improved the regional hydrologic outlook presented at the CIG's recent 2007 water year climate and water forecast meetings. In the October 3 meeting, Dr. Andy Wood summarized current hydrologic conditions, concluding that near normal soil moisture in much of the Pacific Northwest coupled with a normal climate expectation would indicate a normal outlook for 2007 summer flows, but an El Niño climate forecast would lead to deficits of about 10% for WY 2007 summer flows at mainstem river locations such as Columbia River at The Dalles, Oregon.

Given the unusually wet November conditions, the expectation is now for above normal flows at The Dalles (104% of average) and many other Columbia River streamflow locations, with the exception of western Montana locations such as the inflow to Hungry Horse Dam (94% of normal, as a result of low soil moisture). 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. The experimental real-time forecasts are updated monthly and are based on several climate forecast methods. A number of products at the web-site, however, are now 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.

Another hydrologic analysis effort can be found on the UW Experimental Surface Water Monitor website. The Surface Water Monitor shows daily updating estimates of hydrologic conditions throughout the U.S. Since the website's launch in April 2005, the Surface Water Monitor has increasingly become a data source used by U.S. Drought Monitor and Drought Outlook authors in the preparation of their operational products.

3. New UW hydrologic monitoring and prediction system for Washington State

In early November, Dr. Andy Wood of the University of Washington's Land Surface Hydrology Research Group launched a new hydrologic analysis website focusing on Washington State: the UW Hydrologic Monitoring and Prediction System for Washington State. The website currently presents daily updated maps of soil moisture and snow water equivalent (SWE) on maps showing the Washington State Water Resources Inventory Area (WRIA) boundaries (see figures below).

Areal-average analyses of the evolving climate and water conditions (precipitation, temperature, soil moisture, SWE and runoff) are also available for each WRIA (see time series). Additional products are under development, including spatial maps of drought indices such as PDSI and PHDI, as well as both spatial and WRIA-average forecasts of hydrologic variables, drought, and water supply indices. The effort is supported by a grant from the NOAA Sector Applications Research Program, and will focus on drought monitoring and prediction in Washington State and water management in the Yakima River basin.

4. CIG paper calls attention to the need for a National Climate Service

A new Climate Impacts Group paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences calls for establishing a National Climate Service (NCS) to help the nation prepare for the impacts of climate variability and change. As proposed, the NCS would provide seasonal to multi-decadal scale climate forecasts that could be used by resource managers, emergency response managers, and others to prepare for climate impacts. The NCS would also perform basic and applied research on climate dynamics and impacts to natural resources and human activities, and oversee upgrading, expanding, and optimizing current observational networks for monitoring climate and climate impacts. Delivery of information developed by the NCS would be based at the regional scale using groups like the CIG, whose work with Pacific Northwest resource managers over past ten years has contributed to increased use of climate information in operations and planning in public and private sector organizations. To request a copy of the paper, please contact the CIG.

5. U.N. says 2005 set greenhouse gas record

The World Meteorological Organization (WMO), a specialized agency of the United Nations, announced in November that atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide – two major greenhouse gases - hit record highs in 2005 are still increasing. According to the WMO, the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide rose 0.53% last year to 379.1 parts per million. The atmospheric concentration of nitrous oxide also reached a record high in 2005, rising 0.19% to 319.2 parts per billion (ppb). Methane concentration has remained stable at 1,783 ppb.

A copy of the press release and the four page bulletin with details on the changes in global greenhouse gas emissions is available through the WMO.

6. U.S. moves closer to a national drought warning system

Efforts to develop a national early warning system for drought took a major step forward on Wednesday, December 6, when the U.S. Senate unanimously passed a bill establishing a National Integrated Drought Information System (NIDIS). The system is designed to enhance preparing for and managing the impacts of drought by providing early warnings, forecasts, and information about drought conditions to state and local governments. A similar measure was passed by the U.S. House of Representatives on September 26, 2006. The bill now goes to President Bush for signature and Congress must appropriate funds for the program. Read more on NIDIS at Western Governors' Association.

7. CIG annual climate and water fall forecast meetings

The CIG held its annual climate and water forecast meetings in October in Kelso, Washington (October 3) and Boise, Idaho (October 17). The meetings provided the opportunity for researchers and resource managers to discuss how the developing El Niño might affect water resources in the Pacific Northwest. The meetings also provided a forum for sharing the latest on climate change and climate and water decision support tools at the CIG, the National Weather Service, and other agencies. More than 100 people attended the meetings. More information on the meetings, including presentations, is available at:

8. 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.

9. New CIG publications

More CIG publications are available on the CIG publications page.