recent cold temperatures and plenty of snow, Oregon’s climate continues to
warming impacts the state’s physical, biological and human-managed systems; and
more studies are pointing to greenhouse gas emissions as the reason for these
climate trends and events, say researchers.
is the conclusion of the third Oregon Climate Assessment Report, a synthesis of
peer-reviewed scientific studies over the past three years. The legislatively
mandated report was produced by the Oregon Climate Change Research Institute at
Oregon State University and is being presented this month to key Oregon
shouldn’t be swayed by this winter, which is colder than any of the ones we’ve
had since 1990,” noted Philip Mote, director of the OSU center and a co-author
on the report. “Overall, temperatures are still getting warmer – in Oregon,
throughout the United States, and globally – and the impacts are very real.
Oregonians, it means warmer temperatures, lower snowpack and less water during
the summer. And more and more studies are confirming greenhouse gas emissions as
Dello, associate director of the Oregon Climate Change Research Institute,
points out that although December of 2016 was the 11th coldest December on
record in Oregon in 122 years of monitoring, the year was still among the top
10 warmest years on record for the state.
climate assessment report, led by Meghan Dalton, a research assistant with the
institute in the College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences at OSU,
looked at more than 300 studies published from 2013-16 by researchers at
universities, state and federal agencies, and elsewhere. Dalton led a team of
researchers who synthesized the literature and developed the report.
year 2015 has been described as foreshadowing what we can expect as normal
conditions by the mid-21st century,” Dalton said. “There were warmer
temperatures that led to drought, low snowpack, and greater wildfire risk, with
less water in the summer. That appears to be our future.”
in the past three years has varied greatly, according to Dello.
2015, we basically had no snow to speak of,” Dello said. “In 2016, we had a lot
of snow, but most of it got wiped out by warm temperatures in late winter and
early spring. So far this year, we have had a lot of snow, but warmer
temperatures are moving in, and we still have a lot of winter left. We’re
cautiously optimistic. Large year-to-year changes like that are still expected,
even in a warming climate.”
report notes that a warming climate and earlier spring may have a few
beneficial results. Farmers, for example, may benefit from a longer growing
season, though water could be an issue for some crops.
report analyzes potential impacts of climate change for Oregon’s many regions.
Among the findings:
The Oregon Coast: Sea level rise will increase the risk of erosion and flooding
and higher estuary temperatures will challenge migrating salmon and steelhead.
One study estimated that warming of Yaquina Bay by 1.3 to 2.9 degrees (F) would
result in 40 additional days of temperatures not meeting the criteria for
The Willamette Valley: Heat waves are expected to become longer, more common
and more intense; operating rules for reservoirs may have to change to balance
flood risk and summer water supply; air quality will decline, and wildfire risk
will increase. A study of fire activity concluded that there will be a
three-fold to nine-fold increase in the amount of area burned in the basin by
the year 2100.
The Cascade Mountains: More precipitation will fall as rain instead of snow,
with elevations between 3,000 feet and 6,000 feet being the most sensitive. In
addition to potential impacts on ski resorts, there likely will be a change in
when water is available. Cascades forests will probably be subject to more
wildfire, drought, insect damage and disease, and some studies suggest that
woodlands will shift from predominantly conifer to mixed conifer forests. The
risk of increased incidence of respiratory illness from wildfire smoke is a top
public health risk in Jackson County.
Eastern Oregon: Water will be a huge issue in the east with snowpack decline,
and the same forest issues face the Blue Mountains as the Cascades. Increased
wildfire risk may create more days of heavy smoke affecting public health, and
fires will threaten the forests. Salmon in the John Day basin and other river
systems will be challenged with warmer temperatures, and rangeland and
sagebrush habitat is threatened by non-native weeds and grasses.
lot of the studies we cited focus on the physical aspects of warming, from
snowpack to wildfire, but there are a lot of people who will be affected,”
Dello said. “We can’t forget that Oregonians, their families, their jobs and
their resources are at risk. There is still time to do something, but time is
copy of the report is available at http://occri.net/