Biosolids – understanding benefits and risks

By: Georgine Yorgey

Biosolids being spread on agricultural fields. Photo: A. Bary.

Biosolids being spread on agricultural fields. Photo: A. Bary.

Biosolids? Yes, that means sewage sludge. Well, sort of. But before you say YUCK and click off the page, let’s start with what they really are: biosolids are the materials produced from digestion of sewage at city wastewater treatment plants. They are rich in plant nutrients such as organic carbon, nitrogen, and phosphorus, and can be applied to wheat, alfalfa, and timber land for plant fertilization and soil conditioning. When biosolids are applied at rates that meet plant nutrient needs, farmers and researchers are seeing crop yields equal to or greater than those seen with synthetic fertilizer. Applying biosolids as fertilizer also allows them to be recycled for a useful purpose rather than disposed of in landfills or incinerated. Continue reading

Climate Data for Kickstarting Adaptation

by John Abatzoglou and Katherine Hegewisch

Reprinted from: Climate of the Inland Northwest US

Concerned about record breaking temperatures tomorrow, low spring snowpack this winter, or warming temperatures over the next half century? Coping mechanisms exist to minimize detrimental impacts (or maximize opportunities) from these three types and timescales of climate impacts. From the perspective of agricultural impacts, data -whether it comes in the form of observations, weather forecasts or climate projections- can be an incredibly valuable asset. Yes, weather forecasts are sometimes not perfect, and climate projections have uncertainty. However, numerical weather models used by the National Weather Service  have contributed to an estimated $31.5 billion dollar a year benefit to the US not to mention how these forecasts have saved lives. Continue reading

How useful are models anyway? An example, now open for public comment

By: Sonia A. Hall

Cover of the draft 2016 Long-Term Supply and Demand Forecast Legislative Report, currently available for public comment. Click image for link.

Cover of the draft 2016 Long-Term Supply and Demand Forecast Legislative Report, currently available for public comment. Click image for link.

Water, water everywhere… but will it continue to be there in the future? Will it be available when we need it? Or do we need to invest in projects or policies now, because the water in the future will not be the same as in the past? These are the issues that the collaborative research team working on the 2016 Columbia River Long-Term Supply and Demand Forecast are using models to address, at the direction of the Office of the Columbia River (OCR, part of the Washington Department of Ecology) and the Washington State Legislature.

Preliminary model results were presented at three public workshops in Richland, Wenatchee and Spokane in late June, and the draft report is available for public comment on OCR’s website until July 20, 2016. Continue reading

Impossible Predictions Becoming Possible

By CIRCulator Editorial Staff

Reprinted from: The Climate CIRCulator

“Thermometer 115” (Photo: Conservation Law Foundation, Some Rights Reserved.)

“Thermometer 115” (Photo: Conservation Law Foundation, Some Rights Reserved.)

THE ACCURACY OF WEATHER FORECASTS declines sharply after about five to eight days. Beyond 10 days you may as well just use the averages taken from the meteorological record for the dates you are interested in, meaning you might as well ditch weather forecasting altogether and turn to climatology. But in some circumstances, specific types of weather might be predicted weeks in advance.

Writing in Nature Geoscience, Karen McKinnon of the National Center for Atmospheric Research and her colleagues found that some heat events in the eastern U.S. are predictable by as much as 50 days in advance. (In their paper, the researchers define heat events as at least two successive days above the 95th percentile over the eastern US.) The researchers arrived at this discovery after identifying statistically significant relationships between a temperature pattern in the Pacific Ocean, what they call the “Pacific Extreme Pattern,” and heat events as much as 50 days later over roughly the eastern third of the continental U.S. Continue reading

Join us – The future of water in the Columbia River Basin

By Chad Kruger

Wanapum Dam at normal operation on the Columbia River (photo: Dept of Ecology)

Wanapum Dam at normal operation on the Columbia River (photo: Dept of Ecology)

Water is the life-blood of agriculture. Without an adequate supply of water we cannot produce, process, or prepare food. You’ve heard the catch-phrase “No Farms, No Food”? The same could be said for water: “No Water, No Food”.

Actually, water is even more important than that. It is the life-blood of civilization. There was a study published a couple of years ago that evaluated the importance of water (and grain) as it related to the development of the Roman Empire (Dermody 2014). The conclusion of this study is that Rome ultimately was undone by the fact that it had to expand its empire too far to secure sufficient water resources to feed itself. [Someday I’ll write a post about this study – it’s an open access journal so anyone with a computer can read it.] Continue reading

Summer to be hot, but not as hot as last year

By Cynthia King

Reprinted from: WSU News AgWeatherNet

By Nic Loyd, WSU meteorologist, and Linda Weiford, WSU News

SPOKANE, Wash. – There’s a saying around the Pacific Northwest that summer doesn’t really start until after the Fourth of July.

Having just emerged from a snippet of record-breaking heat in early June, this doesn’t seem to ring true, does it? Nor did it ring true last summer when, by the end of June, two major heatwaves had already descended upon us.

Speaking of summer 2015, many Washingtonians may be wondering if this summer is going to be like it. Remember the seemingly relentless heat, the governor’s drought emergency and the largest number of wildfires in the state’s history? Continue reading

CIRC’s Big Wood Project Reaches Completion

By John Stevenson

Reprinted from: The Climate CIRCulator

Map of the Big Wood Basin study area.

Map of the Big Wood Basin study area.

LYING ROUGHLY DEAD CENTER in the lower half of Idaho, the Big Wood River Basin is more than 3,000 square miles, an area larger than Delaware. As with much of the U.S. West, the Big Wood is facing potential water scarcities as warming temperatures lead to less snowpack, changing the Big Wood’s hydrology and potentially affecting everyone from ski resort owners to farmers growing alfalfa and row crops.

To understand how climate change could impact life in the basin, my colleagues and I at CIRC, including Denise Lach, Co-Director of CIRC and Professor in Oregon State University’s School of Public Policy; John Bolte, CIRC researcher and Professor and Head of OSU’s Biological and Ecological Engineering Department; Allison Inouye, Bolte’s graduate student; and others tried out a somewhat new and largely untested methodology: for five years we engaged a stakeholder network in the co-production of science. Continue reading

Beat the Heat and Save Money Doing It. Make a Plan Now to Avoid Heat Stress

By: Elizabeth Whitefield

Dairy nutrient management, Tillamook, Oregon. Credit: NRCS Oregon under Creative Commons license CC BY-ND 2.0

Dairy nutrient management, Tillamook, Oregon. Credit: NRCS Oregon under Creative Commons license CC BY-ND 2.0

It’s never too early to start thinking about management strategies to minimize the impact of summer heat on cows. It just takes one real hot period of heat to put a big dent in milk production and reproductive performance. Last summer in 2015, Sunnyside, WA saw 45 days above 90°F, and 10 days above 100°F (NOAA). The highest reaching 108°F on June 28, 2015. That record hot day wasn’t in late July or early August, as normally expected, but was in June, and was also part of a 9 day stretch of high temps above 99°F degrees. Continue reading

Climate Impacts to Water Conference- Jan 25-26 Skamania Lodge, Stevenson WA

Climate Impacts to Water 2017 PNW conference brief adMark your calendars for the Climate Impacts to Water Conference: Managing the Uncertainties of Water Supply and Quality in the Pacific Northwest taking place January 25-26, 2017.

This conference will focus on:

  • Regional projections of climate and water supply
  • Multiple facets of agricultural water management
  • Water conservation practices
  • Water quality
  • Water policy regulations and rights
  • Regional water projects, research and tools
  • Social science communication concerning water

Program, registration, abstract submittal information and additional details will be coming soon:

This regional conference is being held at Skamania Lodge in Stevenson, WA on the Columbia River – only 45 minutes from the Portland (PDX) Airport.

For more information, please contact Liz Whitefield, WSU Outreach Coordinator, PAS at Liz Whitefield, or 253-445-4562.

Documenting the Drought

By CIRCulator Editorial Staff

Reprinted from: The Climate CIRCulator

AS OREGON AND THE NORTHWEST come out of what has been one of their wettest winters on record, it’s easy enough to forget that last year at this time our water supplies were in terrible shape. Starting in the fall of 2013 and lasting until the fall of 2015, much of the Northwest was mired in a severe drought. Last year ended up being the worst of those years. With temperatures during winter and spring about 5 to 6 degrees Fahrenheit above the twentieth century average in the Northwest, 2015 also looked eerily similar to what climate models suggest could be the norm by the 2050s.

But the drought’s growing severity and possible resemblance to the region’s future also presented an opportunity to gauge how people and organizations were adapting. We decided to document these adaptations. Last summer, CIRC partnered with Oregon Sea Grant to interview Oregonians about how they were responding to the drought. Video of these interviews is now available. What follows is a quick summary of what we found. Continue reading