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The Climate Impacts Group (CIG) is working to further our understanding of the patterns and predictability of regional climate variability, the influence of climate variation on the Pacific Northwest (PNW) environment and its institutions, and strategies for increasing societal resilience to climate.
CIG’s research is fundamentally organized around an analysis of PNW climate, augmented by an examination of regional socioeconomic systems. Our understanding of regional climate – the patterns of its variability in both space and time, the predictability of those variations, and the projections of future changes in climate – helps us to focus our research on those components of life in the PNW that are likely to be most affected by climate fluctuations and on information that could be incorporated into decision making.
By investigating observed physical and institutional responses to past climatic stresses, the CIG can assess the PNW’s sensitivity, adaptability, and vulnerability to climate variability. The understanding gained from these retrospective studies serves as a basis for developing climate and resource forecasting tools for the natural resources management community as well as projecting the regional implications of global climate change.
Our work integrates natural sciences research, social sciences research, and outreach and interaction with the regional stakeholder community. At CIG, researchers from many disciplines work together to understand the regional consequences of fluctuations in climate.
For more information and/or specifics about our research, browse the specific sectoral research pages:
- Hydrology and Water Resources
- Forest Ecosystems
- Aquatic Ecosystems and Fisheries
- Human Dimensions
- Integrated Assessment
The CIG strives to provide information on PNW climate and climate impacts that can be used by decision makers to effectively manage the region’s resources for climate variability and change. To that end, the CIG provides:
- climate and climate-based resource forecasts for seasonal to interannual operations and planning, and
- technical assistance and planning tools to support planning for climate change.
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- Demonstrated a solid connection between Pacific interdecadal climate variability and the abundance of salmon and other marine species, and in so doing named and defined the "Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO)" (Mantua et al. 1997).
- Demonstrated how ENSO, PDO, and other aspects of climate influence other key natural resources in the PNW, for example: streamflow, flooding, and droughts; forest productivity and risk of forest fire; salmon returns; quality of coastal and near-shore habitat; temperature dependence of human mortality rates.
- Characterized PNW climate variability and trends, for example, noting:
- the association of warm-dry and cool-wet winters with ENSO and PDO, and
- the links between several other large-scale climate modes (e.g., Pacific North America pattern (PNA) and the Arctic Oscillation (AO)) and extreme weather events like windstorms, cold air outbreaks, and snow in various locations.
- The 1930s drought in the Columbia Basin was probably the second worst in the last 250 years, after the 1840s. (Gedalof 2002; Gedalof et al., in review)
- Innovative use of geoduck shells to reveal climate signals over the last 160 years places the 1990s as the warmest decade of the last 160 years for Strait of Juan de Fuca cold season sea surface temperatures, with the 1850s and 1930s roughly tied for second. (Strom 2003)
- CIG characterized PDO variability over the past several hundred years, revealing that the period from roughly 1800 to 1920 had lower interdecadal variance than other times. (Gedalof and Smith 2003; Gedalof 2002)
- Won the Boggess Award for best paper in the Journal of the American Water Resources Association for an integrated analysis of the impacts of climate change on Columbia Basin water resources. (Miles et al. 2000)