Category Archives: Climate Modeling

Spring is Coming! Reflections on Growing the AgClimate Network

By: Brooke Saari

“No matter how long the winter, spring is sure to follow” ~ Proverb from Guinea

Spring in the Pacific Northwest. Top Left: Skagit Valley Tulips, courtesy of Brooke Saari; Top Right: Apple Tree in bloom, courtesy Washington State University; Bottom Left: Cherry Orchard in The Dalles, courtesy of Oregon State University and Jan Sonnenmair Photography, Flickr CC 2.0; Bottom Right: Spring Daffodils, courtesy Brent M., Flickr CC 2.0.

Winter is in its final stages and spring is knocking on our door. As a Florida native living in Washington, I for one am ready for some sunshine, flowers and warmth! While I dream of that glorious spring, I’d like to reflect on what an impressive year of growth the Agriculture Climate Network experienced in 2016, and what we are shooting for over the next year. Continue reading

Parched and drenched – we can expect both in the Northwest

By: Sonia A. Hall

The snow-covered landscape, the Columbia River, and the pine forests covered with signs of the recent ice storm provided the backdrop for the Climate Impacts to Water Conference, hosted by Washington State University Extension. University of Idaho climate scientist John Abatzoglou gave a plenary talk, titled Parched and Drenched: Future Climate and Water Resources in the Pacific Northwest (check out the recording here).

What I really liked about Abatzoglou’s presentation was that he focused on one key number, and then got into the weeds of what it means and why it’s important to us. That key number in this case was the fact that the Northwest has seen an increase in average temperatures of 1°C (that’s almost 2°F, if you prefer Fahrenheit), which has mostly occurred in the last 50 years. Is this an important change, and should we care? Yes, because this past temperature increase has already led to more rain and less snow, a reduced winter snowpack, and spring runoff coming earlier in the year, leaving us drier in the summer. Continue reading

Large Storms May Help Snowpack

By: CIRCulator Editorial Staff
Reprinted From: The Climate CIRCulator

Oregon Coast. (Photo: Luke Detwiler, some rights reserved.)

It’s that time again. It’s time to talk about atmospheric rivers, that key weather pattern wherein moist air from the subtropics is drawn in a line to the West Coast, delivering a significant portion of the Pacific Northwest’s winter precipitation.

Lots of winter precipitation is good for the Pacific Northwest, so long as it’s a certain type of precipitation: snow. According to a new study by CIRC and OCCRI’s very own David Rupp and Sihan Li, atmospheric rivers might not only create large precipitation events but also keep temperatures cool enough to turn that precipitation into snow. Continue reading

Summarizing Scientific Knowledge about Agriculture and Climate Change in the Northwest U.S. and Plotting a Roadmap for the Future

By Liz Allen

This white paper integrates stakeholders¹ recommendations with a review of current scientific information about climate change and agriculture in the Northwest U.S.
Image credits, clockwise from top left: Lower Lake Ranch Road Sunset, by Michael McCullough; Marysville Wind Turbines, by Amit Patel; Columbia Gorge Apple Orchard, by Oregon Department of Agriculture; Palouse Wheat Field, by Matt Olson. All Creative Commons by NC 2.0.

Back in March of 2016, a group of agriculture sector stakeholders– including researchers, policy makers and producers– met in Tri-Cities, Washington, for the Agriculture in a Changing Climate Workshop. The three-day workshop was sponsored by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Northwest Climate Hub and National Institute of Food and Agriculture. Facilitators from the William D. Ruckelshaus Center were instrumental in supporting generative dialogue. Workshop participants worked together to define priorities for the future research and extension efforts focused on climate change mitigation and adaptation in the Northwest.

A newly released white paper synthesizes high-priority recommendations that were articulated by participants at the workshop. Continue reading

Under what climatic conditions will it make economic sense to switch to a new irrigation system?

By: Keyvan Malek and Sonia A. Hall

Flood irrigation, a low efficiency system in use in parts of Washington State. Public domain photo by Jeff Vanuga, USDA NRCS.

Investing in efficient irrigation systems usually requires significant capital. As with other capital-intensive investments, doing it would only make economic sense if the benefits exceed the costs. Each farmer can estimate the cost of switching their system to a high-efficiency system. But what about the benefits? What do they depend on? And will those factors they depend on change in the future? We used a model to play out some “what if” scenarios to address these questions in Washington’s Yakima Basin (see this article on using models in this way). Continue reading

Water for the Long Haul

By: Joye Redfield-Wilder
Repost from ECOconnect

2016 forecast will guide water management in Columbia River Basin
Ecology’s Office of Columbia River (OCR) has a mission to “aggressively pursue development of water supplies to benefit both instream and out of stream uses.”  Since 2006, the program has been building water resiliency in Eastern Washington, especially in response to changing climate and drought.
The 2016 Water Supply and Demand Forecast for the Columbia River Basin tells a story of Washington’s water future and is helping water managers to anticipate likely water needs across the Columbia River Basin over the next 20 years (2035). Continue reading

Considering Food-Energy-Water Interconnections in the Urban Northwest

By Liz Allen

Two different visions for the future of metro Seattle’s food system. All photos © Creative Commons License for non-commercial use, clockwise from top left: Oregon Department of Agriculture, Irrigation; Rachel Knickmeyer, Seattle Skyline; The West End, Pike Place Urban Garden.

If you follow research priorities for agriculture and the environment at the federal and international level, you’re likely aware that the “Food-Energy-Water Nexus” has become something of a buzz phrase in recent years. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and the National Science Foundation, for example, have put out calls for research proposals that investigate interconnections and interdependencies among food, energy and water (FEW) resources.

Continue reading

Climate Model Series (Part 5 of 5): Can we get a 2nd opinion? Why multiple models are key to understanding climate change impacts.

By Liz Allen

Wheat around the world. According to the International Development Research Center of Canada, wheat is the most widely grown cereal grain, occupying 17% of the total cultivated land in the world, and providing more calories and protein in the global diet than any other single crop. All photos © Creative Commons License for non-commercial use, clockwise from top left: Guillaume Bourven, wheat silage harvest, Finistère Nord, Bretagne, France; Sathish J. spring wheat, Steptoe Butte, Washington State; Ekaterina Sotova, wheat growing in Kuzovka, Russia; J.van de Gevel, Bioversity International, Farmers evaluating traits of wheat varieties, Ethiopia.

Wheat around the world. According to the International Development Research Center of Canada, wheat is the most widely grown cereal grain, occupying 17% of the total cultivated land in the world, and providing more calories and protein in the global diet than any other single crop. All photos © Creative Commons License for non-commercial use, clockwise from top left: Guillaume Bourven, wheat silage harvest, Finistère Nord, Bretagne, France; Sathish J. spring wheat, Steptoe Butte, Washington State; Ekaterina Sotova, wheat growing in Kuzovka, Russia; J.van de Gevel, Bioversity International, Farmers evaluating traits of wheat varieties, Ethiopia.

In the Climate Modeling Series, I have explored what you need to know to interpret and use models effectively (you can find the four previous posts in the series by searching “Climate Model Series” on www.agclimate.net). For this final installment, I’d like to use hot-off-the-press research of global significance to illustrate why, when it comes to climate change research, two or more “opinions” are better than one.

Published in September in Nature Climate Change, the paper “Similar estimates of temperature impacts on global wheat yield by three independent models” was authored by a large team of international co-authors, including researchers affiliated with WSU’s Department of Biological Systems Engineering and the AgWeatherNet program. They compared projections of global wheat yield under a 1°C temperature increase, and found that the models consistently project declining global wheat yields.

Continue reading

Climate Model Series (Part 4 of 5)– What We Know About What We Don’t Know

By Liz Allen

The author's brother moves an irrigation pipe in the Willamette Valley. Making management decisions amid multiple uncertainties is at the heart of what farmers do. Photo credit: Liz Allen

The author’s brother moves an irrigation pipe in the Willamette Valley. Making management decisions amid multiple uncertainties is at the heart of what farmers do. Photo credit: Liz Allen

Just how well can we model the impacts that climate change will have on agriculture in the Pacific Northwest? Simply put, there will always be uncertainty about exactly how the climate of the future will differ from historical patterns and what those changes will mean for farmers in the region. How accurately models can project future conditions is a big and complex topic. Discussions of uncertainty can quickly veer into fairly esoteric scientific and philosophical territory, leading to questions such as: What constitutes scientific proof? How can we account for inherent randomness within systems when studying the future? And, how useful are model projections when there is uncertainty associated with nearly every input variable? In practice, however, modeling is tremendously useful because it allows researchers and agricultural decision-makers to put bounds on uncertainty. Thus, modeling helps make plans for the future in spite of uncertainty. 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