Report: Climate-change effects are already apparent in NW

Posted on The Seattle Times: 7 May 2014 — By Sandi Doughton — Bigger, more frequent forest fires, shrinking snowpacks and changing ocean chemistry herald greater risks in the Northwest due to climate change, a new report says.


From changes in stream flows to acidifying oceans and widespread forest die-offs, the Pacific Northwest is already experiencing signs of a changing climate, according to the most comprehensive analysis yet of impacts in the United States.

The third National Climate Assessment, released Tuesday, warns that no part of the country is immune, and that the effects of climate change will become increasingly disruptive in the coming decades.

“Climate change, once considered an issue for the distant future, has moved firmly into the present,” the report says. “Corn producers in Iowa, oyster growers in Washington state and maple syrup producers in Vermont are all observing climate-related changes that are outside of our recent experience.”

The national assessment is mandated by Congress and published roughly every four years. But this marks the first time it has zeroed in on local impacts, with sections on nine geographic regions, including the Northwest.

Nationwide, average temperatures have increased by 1.3 to 1.9 degrees Fahrenheit since 1970, with another 2- to 4-degree increase expected before the end of the century. The past decade was the hottest on record in the U.S., and 2012 was the hottest year.

Across much of the country, the warming has led to more intense rainstorms, fewer cold snaps, prolonged allergy seasons, and shifts in bird migrations and the types of plants that grow in gardens, says the report, which was written by more than 250 experts and reviewed by the National Academy of Science.

Winter storms have grown in frequency and intensity and have shifted northward since the 1950s, it says.

“Taken together, the evidence tells an unambiguous story: the planet is warming, and over the last half century, this warming has been driven primarily by human activity,” the report says.

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