By Sonia A. Hall, Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources, Washington State University
AgClimate.net has been discussing all aspects of climate change and agriculture for years, as exemplified by a 2016 workshop AgClimate.net co-sponsored.
On AgClimate.net, we have been discussing impacts on agriculture resulting from a changing climate for years now. We also discuss practices or approaches that show promise for helping producers adapt to the changes to come. And we discuss the ways that the agricultural sector can reduce its greenhouse gas emissions or, conversely, capture carbon, mainly in soils. Recently, however, it appears that these kinds of issues are front and center for a much broader swath of the agricultural sector. What might be driving this shift? Could it be another example of the pandemic highlighting other vulnerabilities? Or is interest shifting because of scientists’ ability to better tease out the contribution that climate change is making to recent extreme events that are impacting our region? Continue reading
By Luke Brockman, Oregon State University, Forestry and Natural Resources Extension, Fire Program
Drought is an important contributing factor to the dry conditions necessary for wildfire to spread to the levels we see today. Photo: USDA Forest Service under CC BY 2.0
Climate change is driving record high temperatures across the world, and among the effects in the Pacific Northwest is the increased severity of drought, which contributes to conditions already setting the stage for intense wildfires. Projected agricultural impacts of drought include losses in wheat, barley, and Christmas tree production. Additionally, the drought extremity we are experiencing this year correlates with the severity of wildfires, since drought is an important contributing factor to the dry conditions necessary for wildfire to spread to the levels we see today. Consider that this year’s wildfire season has been 19 times worse in terms of acreage burned than last year’s—more than 1 million acres by mid-August and counting in just Oregon and Washington, compared to a mere 52,000 acres at the same time last year––and conditions are likely to worsen in the coming years.
Gathering science-based, real-time information about wildfires burning in your state is important, but can certainly be a challenge when distracting “Breaking News” headlines and a whole host of other less than informative publications shroud your search results. Read on for some examples of how two online resources, drought.gov and the Inciweb site, can get you started with up-to-date information about drought, wildfire, and the effects that the changing climate is having on our neck of the woods. Continue reading
By Nicole Bell, Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources, Washington State University
Irrigation water supply in eastern Washington relies on snowmelt, which is expected to change as temperatures warm. Photo: Flickr user brewbooks under CC BY-SA 2.0.
Climate change is expected to alter both the availability and demand for water. In the western United States, roughly 80% of surface water is allocated to agricultural uses, and the pressure to find more efficient ways to manage water is on, especially in drought years. Eastern Washington is no exception: the mountains in this region are relatively low in elevation, meaning that as the region warms, temperatures will cross that 32°F threshold more frequently, more precipitation will fall as rain rather than as snow, and snowmelt will occur earlier. Because the Pacific Northwest relies on snowpack for much of its summer water supply, this could create challenges for managing water. While previous articles have focused on the likely timing and availability of water in the Columbia River Basin, in this article I focus on water markets, or the transfer or leasing of water and water rights from one user to another. These markets provide a tool that could potentially help reallocate water to where it is critically needed during times of shortage. Continue reading
By Karen Hills, Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources, Washington State University
Two reports on climate change impacts translated into Spanish, helping to spread this information to a portion of the population that may otherwise have limited access. Photo: Climate Impacts Group
The recent heatwave in the Pacific Northwest has many of us thinking about climate change and what life may look like as the region warms. The Climate Impacts Group at the University of Washington (UW) recently announced the release of two publications in Spanish, helping to spread this information to a portion of the population that may otherwise have less access to this information.
The reports, Sin Tiempo Que Perder and Cambiando las Líneas de Nieve y las Líneas de Costa, were originally published in 2018 and 2020, and written for a general audience. Continue reading
By Nicole Bell, Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources, Washington State University
Heat wave damage to a commonly grown blackberry cultivar, Columbia Star (photo taken July 1, 2021). Photo courtesy of Dr. Bernadine Strik.
It wasn’t just hot in the Pacific Northwest (PNW) during the last week of June. It was extraordinarily hot. Temperatures at Oregon State University’s North Willamette Research and Extension Center (NWREC) in Aurora, Oregon, reached a high of 113°F on June 28, with a nighttime low of 85°F. It wasn’t just one day of scorching temperatures, though—much of the PNW experienced more than three consecutive days of highs in the triple digits, with lows staying above 65°F. With temperatures peaking in Lytton, British Columbia, Canada, at 121°F, some outlets are calling this multi-day event a heat dome. Growers are feeling the impact of June’s high temperatures. How does this type of heat affect staple and specialty crops, and how can the agricultural industry in the Pacific Northwest best prepare for events like this to come? Read on for some insights from the June heat dome.
A wide variety of crops were impacted by the record-setting heat, notably berries, cherries, and even some vegetables across the region. Continue reading
By Jacob Powell, General Agricultural Extension Agent for Sherman and Wasco Counties, Oregon State University
Wildfires directly impact agricultural production and the lives of those who live and work in agricultural areas. Photo: Jacob Powell.
The primary focus of wildfire preparedness and prevention in the past has been in forests and the wildland urban interface. However, 75% of the area consumed by wildfires across the U.S. is in non-forested ecosystems, much of it covering rangelands and crops. Wildfires directly impact agricultural production and the lives of those who live and work in agricultural areas. Farmers and their employees are also heavily involved in efforts to control wildfires, even with potentially direct risks to their health and safety. I discuss these impacts, as well as options that are available to improve preparedness. Continue reading
By Donald A. Llewellyn, Ph.D., Associate Professor/Livestock Extension Specialist, Washington State University Extension, and
Craig McConnel, DVM, Ph.D., Associated Professor/Veterinary Medicine Extension, Washington State University Extension
Providing shade, in addition to cool, clean water and avoiding stressful handling can help livestock weather heat waves. Photo provided by Don Llewellyn.
A heat wave is expected to engulf much of the Inland Northwest over the next week with daytime temperatures above 100 degrees in many areas. These temperatures will put livestock and pet well-being at risk. Commercial producers and youth with animal projects should prepare now for the upcoming heat and dangerous conditions. Here are a few general suggestions to keep your animals safe, but also keep in mind each of the various species of domesticated animals with have specific needs.
- Avoid stressful handling of livestock and if necessary only do so in the early morning hours or late in the evening.
- If animals are in a barn or shed, ensure that they have proper ventilation and air circulation.
- For animals outside, provide shade if possible.
- Provide a continuous supply of cool, clean water.
Q&A with Anders Carlson and Aaron Hartz of the Oregon Glaciers Institute
By Paris Edwards
Did you know that the Northwest is the most glacier-rich region in the lower 48? Glaciers throughout the region provide essential cool, late-summer water for irrigation, fish, and for our taps. Their fate under warming climate conditions, however, is shaky. Even though glacial melt water is crucial to ecosystems and economies alike, we know shockingly little about how much water glaciers provide or where it flows.
Anders Carlson (left) and Aaron Hartz (right) are founders of the new Oregon Glaciers Institute. Photo credit: Jason Sotomayor.
Aaron Hartz and Anders Carlson, founders of the new Oregon Glaciers Institute, are friends, scientists, and potentially part mountain goat. Their mission is to document and study the causes of change for Oregon’s poorly understood and undervalued glaciers, by foot and by photo, and to provide projections of each glacier’s future. Both Oregon State University alumni, collectively they bring decades of full-spectrum knowledge and experience that spans professorial expertise, and the hard-won nitty-gritty knowhow that comes from avid exploration of high alpine terrain. I talked to these intrepid scientists and adventurers about what inspired their work and what they are discovering about the current and future health of one of the region’s essential water resources.
By Amanda Stahl and Alexander Fremier, Washington State University
Conserving riparian areas means a small footprint can contribute to protecting a county’s Critical Areas and mitigate the effects of climate change. Photo: Amanda Stahl.
Washington State is taking steps to foster environmental stewardship in agriculture using an alternative approach to direct regulatory oversight. Twenty-seven counties in Washington have opted into the Voluntary Stewardship Program (VSP), which requires them to self-assess (with state oversight) whether voluntary management actions are maintaining or enhancing Critical Areas. Critical Areas include wetlands, fish and wildlife habitat conservation areas, critical aquifer recharge areas, frequently flooded areas, and geologically hazardous areas. Most counties cite riparian conservation measures as a strategy to maintain or enhance at least one type of Critical Area. Riparian conservation measures, like planting or allowing natural vegetation to grow, can also address the impacts of climate change, providing shade to cool water in the stream, improving habitat for species stressed by climate change, and possibly helping moderate extremes in moisture availability year-round. Conserving small land areas can thus have a large impact for mitigating the effects of climate change. The question is, how can we quickly determine if these measures are working, and meeting the goals of the VSP? Continue reading
By Karen Hills
Figure 1. The Pacific Northwest was hit by an historic flood in February 1996. Corps dams were put to the test and held back as much of the flood waters as possible, but too much rain fell in the valley below the dam. As a result, many communities in western Oregon felt the impacts of the flood waters. Photo: Portland Corps under CC BY 2.0.
Previous posts on AgClimate.net have focused on research related to anticipated climate change impacts on water availability and timing of available irrigation water in the Columbia River Basin, given the concern with having sufficient water to support the range of uses in the region. But is too little water the only concern? Laura Queen of the Oregon State University Climate Change Research Institute is the author of a recently published paper titled “Ubiquitous increases in flood magnitude in the Columbia River Basin under climate change.” Queen and her colleagues explain how in systems dominated by snowmelt, as is common in the Pacific Northwest, observational studies have shown consistent changes toward earlier spring streamflow and lower summer streamflow. This change has important implications for water users in the region. Less frequently discussed are the anticipated impacts on flooding (Figure 1), which is second only to fire in federal disaster declarations brought about by natural disasters in the Pacific Northwest. Continue reading