2015, low river flow conditions, coupled with high air temperatures and warm
water in the Snake and Columbia rivers and their tributaries from mid-June to
mid-July, resulted in the highest mainstem water temperatures recorded in the
Columbia River Basin.
Snake River sockeye, listed as endangered under the federal Endangered Species
Act, made it to Lower Granite Dam and even fewer found their way to spawning
grounds in the Sawtooth Valley.
until now unusually warm and dry year also resulted in irrigation shortages and
crop losses, fish die-offs, large wildfires, record cases of infectious
diseases and reduced recreation.
scenario could become the new normal or worse, says a federal report on climate
change released the day after Thanksgiving, Nov. 23 (https://nca2018.globalchange.gov/).
to the report – the Fourth National Climate Assessment, which has a chapter
that focuses solely on the Pacific Northwest (Chapter 24) – climate change is
affecting the natural environment, agriculture, energy production and use, land
and water resources, transportation, and human health and welfare across the
U.S. and its territories.
we rapidly reduce the amount of carbon we’re putting into the atmosphere on a
global basis, we will increasingly experience extreme weather events – and the
Northwest will not be exempt,” said Phillip Mote, director of the Oregon
Climate Change Research Institute at Oregon State University and a co-author on
the Pacific Northwest chapter. Mote this week was named vice provost and dean
of OSU’s Graduate School.
impacts in 2015 were profound and affected natural resources, public health and
local economies. I wish I could say that year was an anomaly, but it is likely
that those conditions will become more and more frequent.”
Northwest experienced its warmest year on record in 2015: the annual average
temperature was 3.4 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than the 30-year average. Winter
was worse, with temperatures averaging 6.2 degrees F above normal.
change threatens our health, our communities, and our economy. The science is
there, the facts are real — and the time for bold action is now,” Oregon Gov.
Kate Brown tweeted this week.
report says that “the warm 2015 winter temperatures are illustrative of
conditions that may be considered ‘normal’ by mid-century,” according to an OSU
news release (https://today.oregonstate.edu/news/new-federal-report-northwest-climate-could-see-more-years-2015).
a result of the high temperatures and sparse precipitation, snowpack levels in
Oregon and Washington were the lowest on record: Oregon was 89 percent below
average, Washington, 70 percent,” OSU says. The snow drought led to lower river
levels that affected many farmers, who received reduced allocations of water
for irrigation or had their water shut off early. In Eastern Oregon’s Treasure
Valley, farmers received only a third of their normal irrigation water because
the Owyhee Reservoir did not have adequate river inflows to fill the reservoir
for the third year in a row.
impacts of 2015 tell the story of what it will be like if the Northwest
continues to warm at the same rate it has over the past half century, according
to OSU. Low stream levels and warm water resulted in fish die-offs;
agricultural losses were between $633 million and $773 million in Washington
alone; a combination of low snowpack and extreme precipitation deficit in
spring and summer led to the most severe wildfire season in Northwest history;
Ski areas struggled to remain open; the lack of snow affected summer
recreation. Visitors to Detroit Lake in Oregon dropped by 26 percent due to
historically low water –as much as 70 feet below capacity in July – rendering
most boat ramps unusable.
scientific community has spoken clearly and unequivocally that climate change
is a present and growing danger to our nation, our economy and our way of
life,” said Washington Gov. Jay Inslee. “Nations are rushing to be at the head
of the pack in the global transition to a carbon-free future. Now is the time
for us to unleash American innovation and investment in clean energy technology
and defeat the scourge of climate change before it’s too late.”
adapt to what is likely coming the Northwest Power and Conservation Council’s
2014 Fish and Wildlife Program includes measures that account for a warming
climate (see Part IV, Strategies, Section A, Ecosystem Function, Number 7, Page
57 at https://www.nwcouncil.org/sites/default/files/2014-12_1.pdf.
in 2014 and before, the Council had anticipated that the Columbia River basin
would see warmer temperatures with more precipitation falling as rain rather
than snow, with snowpack diminishing, particularly in lower-elevation
watersheds, and alteration of stream flow timing. Peak river flows will likely
shift to earlier in the spring and water temperatures will continue to rise.
the measures recommended by the Council’s Program to adapt to a changing and
warming climate are:
Support development of improved runoff forecasting methods and techniques for
Columbia River Basin watersheds and provide early (e.g., late fall or early
winter) runoff forecasts for the basin;
Assess whether climate change effects are altering or are likely to alter
critical river flows, water temperatures or other habitat attributes in a way
that could significantly affect fish or wildlife important to this program. If
so, evaluate whether alternative water management scenarios, including changes
in flood control operations, could minimize the potential effects of climate
change on mainstem hydrology and water temperatures;
Evaluate the effectiveness and feasibility of possible actions to mitigate
effects of climate change, including selective withdrawal from cool/cold water
storage reservoirs to reduce water temperatures or other actions to create or
protect cool water refugia in mainstem reaches or reservoirs;
Implement long-term habitat protections for resident fish and wildlife;
Identify and implement a strategic expansion of the network of stations for surface
weather and streamflow observations in high-altitude mountainous areas of the
Investigate the feasibility of mitigating climate change impacts in the estuary
and plume through changes in hydrosystem operations, including changes in
a recent review of the Council’s Program by the Independent Scientific Advisory
Board, the ISAB said “The scientific evidence is unequivocal that humans are
driving climate change and ocean acidification. Indeed, the Council should
increase its efforts to promote public awareness, convene science/policy
workshops, and encourage the development of alternative energy” (see CBB, April
6, 2018, “Scientists Review Basin Fish/Wildlife Program, Offer Recommendations
For Improving,” http://www.cbbulletin.com/440476.aspx).
the Northwest Power Act of 1980 that authorized the four Northwest states to
form the Council, the Council created the original Program in 1982. The Program
is revised every five years based primarily on these recommendations.
Council is currently accepting recommendations for amendments to the Program.
Those recommendations are due by 5 pm, Dec. 13 (https://www.nwcouncil.org/fw/program/2018-amendments).
more planning for adaptation and mitigation the better,” Mote said, “but there
are some supreme challenges – especially for isolated communities, tribal communities
and others that rely on natural resources. Water availability, water quality
and infrastructure are foundational issues moving forward.”
report is the fourth National Climate Assessment under the U.S. Global Change
Research program and the first since 2014. Representatives from 11 federal
agencies constitute the Subcommittee on Global Change Research of the Committee
on Environment and Natural Resources within the National Science and Technology
Council, according to an OSU news release.
federal agencies involved in the U.S. Global Change Research Program are: the
Departments of Agriculture; Commerce; Defense; Energy; Health and Human
Services; the Interior; State; and Transportation; and the U.S. Environmental
Protection Agency, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, National
Science Foundation, Smithsonian Institution, and U.S. Agency for International
Northwest chapter includes authors from Oregon, Washington and Idaho
representing universities, state and federal agencies, Native American tribes,
and private industry. They organized the chapter by looking at the impacts of
climate change on natural resource economy, the natural world and cultural
heritage, infrastructure, health, and frontline communities.
October 12, 2018, “Study: How Warmer Columbia/Snake Water Temps Affect Adult
Salmonid Migration Timing, Survival,” http://www.cbbulletin.com/441653.aspx
September 14, 2018, “Study Says Climate Change Will Increase Exposure of
Pacific Chinook Salmon To Pollutants,” http://www.cbbulletin.com/441482.aspx
April 13, 2018, “Research: Extreme Climate Variability In West May Be
Destabilizing West Coast Marine Ecosystems,” http://www.cbbulletin.com/440512.aspx
March 16, 2018, “Tentative Schedule For Amending Four-State Columbia River Basin
Fish And Wildlife Program Outlined,” http://www.cbbulletin.com/440359.aspx
CBB, Jan. 19, 2018, “Council Mulling Issues Likely To Arise During Coming
Update Of Basin Fish And Wildlife Program” http://www.cbbulletin.com/440106.aspx
January 27, 2017, “Third Oregon Climate Assessment Report Shows State Still
Warming; Lower Snowpack, Less Water,” http://www.cbbulletin.com/438247.aspx
CBB, October 10, 2014, “NW Power/Conservation Council Approves New Columbia
River Basin Fish and Wildlife Program,” http://www.cbbulletin.com/432366.aspx