Category Archives: Climate Modeling

Global agricultural regions to keep your eye on in the future

By: Sonia A. Hall

Over 30% of wheat is grown in temperate drylands globally, which are expected to see a 41% increase in suitability for rainfed agriculture. Photo credit: Flickr user Sparky, under CC BY-NC 2.0.

One challenge I struggle with when sharing research focused at global scales is how to tease out answers to questions that are meaningful in the region and at the scale I work in. My approach is to focus on how the big picture results sketch out, and think about what it all means (even when the specifics are not exactly right, which they rarely are). Hopefully I’ll be successful in this article about a paper I co-authored, on agriculture in temperate drylands (I define these below) at a global scale. Led by Dr. John Bradford at the U.S. Geological Survey, we looked at temperate drylands across the world, and explored how rainfed (non-irrigated) agricultural areas could shift as the climate changes. Read on, and see if I convince you that wheat growers in the Pacific Northwest should care about these results.   Continue reading

Impacts and tools for dryland farmers adapting to climate change

By Liz Allen

As climate and agriculture researchers we’re constantly learning from farmers who we interact with. Our conversations with dryland wheat producers in the inland Pacific Northwest have shown us that many farmers are very skilled at managing for multiple risks at once and making decisions under various kinds of uncertainty. Climate models project substantial warming by mid-century (Figure 1) as well as more frequent storm events and more extreme minimum and maximum temperatures in the future. At the same time, a higher concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere may contribute to more rapid crop growth.  As more detailed and sophisticated models of climate change and crop dynamics are developed, it is increasingly clear that managing under observed and projected climate change impacts will require new perspectives for farmers and other agriculture sector decision makers. Those involved in agriculture will need to develop their understanding of climate-related hazards and poise themselves to take advantage of emerging opportunities linked to a changing climate.

Figure 1. Cumulative growing degree days (base 32°F) 1971–2000 (left) and 2040–2069 represen¬tative concentration pathway (RCP) 8.5 (right), projections obtained from the AgClimate atlas. See the Climate Considerations chapter in Advances in Dryland Farming in the Inland Pacific Northwest for more information on how to interpret projections like this. (Source: Kruger et al. 2017)

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Including climate in your reforestation decision making

By: Holly R. Prendeville, Coordinator for the USDA Northwest Climate Hub

Tree mortality due to flathead woodborer in southwest Oregon, photo take in June 2016. Photo by Bob Schroeter of the USFS

Weather in the Northwest has gotten more variable. We have recently experienced drought for two years followed by flooding in 2017. The 2015 drought coincides with future climate projections for the Northwest: warmer temperatures leading to lower and earlier melting of snowpacks. Though trees are locally adapted to climate and can tolerate moderate changes, rapid and large changes in climate may be beyond the capacity of some species. As we saw in 2015, longer and drier growing seasons affect tree regeneration, growth, and mortality. This poses challenges for foresters, which Chris Schnepf discussed in a recent article.

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When you get into specifics, there can be good news about climate change

By: Doug Finkelnburg

“This is the first good news I’ve heard about climate change” was among the feedback received after delivering a talk about changes expected for Pacific Northwest’s agriculture. The audience was primarily ranchers attending the Northwest Grazing Conference in Pendleton, Oregon this past May. Scheduling conflicts prevented the talk’s author, Chad Kruger, director of the Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources from attending, and with some trepidation I agreed to present the topic on his behalf.

For many Americans, climate change is at best an abstract challenge, seemingly serious but without immediately obvious specific threats to one’s life and business. To the skeptic, it is a political football and a dark conspiracy, some nefarious excuse dreamed up to gain economic and political advantage for one interest group over another. With this in mind I attempted to summarize and translate the results of Northwest-focused climate research to an audience I expected viewed the topic at large with some level of hostility.

Wheat production in the Northwest, where the increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide and shifts in precipitation cycles are expected to deliver a “boost” to productivity of forages and small grains. Photo: Dennis Behm, under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

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Adapting to Climate Change: How Forestry and Cropping Systems Differ

By Chris Schnepf

“Family forest owners own a large portion of forests in many PNW regions” (Photo – C. Schnepf)

Many westerners presume any forest they drive by is managed by the U.S. Forest Service. But nationally the largest portion of forests are owned privately. Even in the West, key regions have a very high percentage of private forests. For example, over half of the forests in the Idaho Panhandle are private.

Some people debate whether forestry should be considered part of agriculture. Like farmers, forest owners and managers are discerning how to adapt their management to a changing climate. But forestry in North America starts from a different point than most cropping systems. Continue reading

NW Climate Conference call for abstracts now open!

Tacoma Convention Center, Photo by HighSierraProductions.com

Call for Abstracts now open!

The Eighth Annual Northwest Climate Conference
Working Together to Build a Resilient Northwest

October 10-11, 2017
Tacoma Convention Center | Tacoma, WA
http://pnwclimateconference.org/

We are pleased to announce the call for abstracts for the 8th Annual Northwest Climate Conference – Working Together to Build a Resilient Northwest. We invite you and your colleagues to submit abstracts for special sessions, oral presentations, and posters. The due date for abstracts is Monday, June 12, 2017. Continue reading

Exploring Climate Change Adaptation Strategies for Agriculture in the Northwest

By Liz Allen

Workshop participants included government agency staff, agriculture industry representatives, and annual and perennial crop producers. Photo Credit: Red Hills Vineyard in the Willamette Valley, Oregon. Photo by Stuart Seeger, CC BY 2.0.

One of the best things about my work is that it connects me with researchers from a wide range of disciplinary backgrounds who are committed to conducting science that informs natural resource management decisions. I’ve been fortunate to work with WSU researchers studying regional climate change impacts for nearly 6 years now, and over that time many of my academic colleagues have developed new skills related to communicating their research to diverse audiences. I’ve also witnessed scientists’ growing interest in learning from stakeholders who make decisions about managing agricultural and natural resources “out there in the real world”. Continue reading

Could the Northwest become an increasingly important dairy-producing region as climate change unfolds?

By Liz Allen

Dairy cows of Tillamook County, Oregon. Photo by Jimmy Emerson, CC BY NC 2.0.

In a previous article I explored how climate change in California’s wine country—coupled with shifting temperature and precipitation patterns in Oregon and Washington—may catalyze new opportunities for winegrape production in the Northwest. I also suggested that these opportunities might be accompanied by an increase in locally produced cheeses due to growth in the region’s dairy industry. In this article, I’ll discuss research indicating that during the 21st century, climate change impacts could lead to more favorable conditions for milk production in the Northwest relative to other current dairy centers of the U.S. In 2016, Idaho, Washington and Oregon produced roughly 11% of the nation’s milk. It is conceivable that this percentage could increase substantially in coming decades. Continue reading

Designing climate tools to be used – what does the ag industry need?

By: Dominique Bachelet

As a climate change scientist at the Conservation Biology Institute (CBI), I spend a lot of my time thinking about how to deliver climate projections and climate impacts data in a useful manner. This is a challenging part of my job, because I do not make decisions on managing natural resources, so I am not necessarily the best person to determine how climate research might inform such decisions. For practitioners whose day-to-day work is managing natural resources—forests, fisheries, endangered species and their habitats, for example—thinking about future climate and potential climate impacts is challenging in a different way. Practitioners have limited time and funding to digest and incorporate this material into their plans, strategies, and actions. I expect agricultural professionals face a similar challenge, so there’s an opportunity to share ideas on how to develop effective climate-related decision-support tools.

Natural resource managers participated in workshops to provide input on what information and tools would be most useful to them. Lakeview, OR. Photo: Dominique Bachelet.

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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