Northwest Climate Change Impacts Anticipated

By Anthony Harris

OSUClimateChangeShortLast week, President Barack Obama made the third National Climate Assessment public. The report included startling updates on how climate change will affect the country now and in the future. Oregon State University professor and director of the Oregon Climate Change Research Institute Dr. Philip Mote co-authored the Northwest chapter of the report, while also serving on the advisory committee.

According to Mote, one major climate obstacle the Northwest will face going forward is the impact of lower amounts of mountain snow on the region, specifically in communities that rely heavily on snowpack for water and agricultural purposes. Most experts agreed the Northwest will get warmer and see more rain and less snow.

In the report, Mote indicated the region’s snow loss is attributed to rising temperatures that could increase by 3.3 degrees Fahrenheit to as much as 9.7 degrees by the year 2100. Other researchers speculated that summer months will see increases in drought and extreme heat, making things extremely difficult for farmers.

Forest land should also expect significant changes by at least 2040 due to climate change, according to chapter co-author and Alaskan research ecologist Jeremy Littell. Much of the new research has been dedicated to projected changes in forest ecosystems as a result of disturbances from fire, insect mortality, and vegetation changes. Changes should occur more rapidly than usual.

Ocean acidification is another potential change that was covered in the report, which will reportedly affect Northwest coasts. Acidification is a process where carbon dioxide in the atmosphere dissolves in the ocean and makes the seawater less basic. A rise in sea level by one to four feet by the end of the century is projected by researchers as well. The rise could lead to erosion of beaches and have a drastic effect on coastal ecosystems and communities.

Climate Change Northwest is available through Island Press or you can download it at www.occri.net. The entire National Climate Assessment can be found on the White House website and at http://nca2014.globalchange.gov.

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