Category Archives: Variability, Weather, & Extreme Events

Engaging Climate Science through Citizen Science Apps

By Chris Schnepf

Queencup beadlily flowering on a forest floor

“Nature’s Notebook” is an app that can be used to collect phenology data such as flower timing. Photo: C. Schnepf.

Trying to understand how climate is changing, and how these changes affect the crop yields, forest growth, water from melting snowpacks, and all the other parts of our natural world, is very challenging. Increasingly, some of the primary tools for understanding these phenomena are models.

One of the biggest misconceptions about models is the idea they are not based in the real world – that they are just theoretical constructs, untethered to actual measurements. There are models like that – even philosophers are playing with models these days. But most of the models used in the natural sciences depend on empirical data – measurements of things like temperature, precipitation, crop yields, tree mortality, and many other attributes. Continue reading

Check it out: The State of the Science on Climate Change in the Pacific Northwest

By Gabrielle Roesch-McNally

The Fourth National Climate Assessment (NCA4) was just released on November 23, 2018. The Global Change Research Act of 1990 mandates that the U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP) provide a report to Congress and the President just about every four years. This report focuses on the human welfare, societal and environmental impacts associated with climate change and variability across 10 regions in the U.S., and across 18 topics of national significance. Many collaborators across the Northwest participated in writing for the Northwest chapter. In this chapter, we outline five Key Messages that illustrate how climate change will impact different aspects of life in the Northwest (Figure 1):   Continue reading

Flexibility is Key to Northwest Cattle Production’s Future Success

By Laurie Houston

The impact of climate change on cattle producers in the Northwest is not expected to be as extreme as other regions of the United States.  According to a recent study led by Shannon Neibergs and published in Climatic Change, Northwest producers have a comparative advantage because droughts will be less severe in the Northwest and they have access to feed via extensive irrigation systems than can mitigate the effects of drought. That’s compared to the rest of the United States, though. But what impacts can livestock producers expect here? Can they continue business as usual? Probably not, but there are clear options moving forward, conclude Neibergs and colleagues. Continue reading

Northwest Rangelands – Where Do our Climate Vulnerabilities Lie?

By Georgine G. Yorgey

What will climate change look like on Pacific Northwest rangelands, which cover a huge area of our region? It will undoubtedly have complex impacts on the physical environment, environmental stressors, socio-economic factors, and the animals, plants, and other rangeland organisms. Recently, I took a look at the literature to see what the state of the science is relating to rangelands’ vulnerability to climate change. While there are a number of relevant studies that I mention below, I focus in this article on one of the few quantitative analyses, led by Matt Reeves, that updates Reeves’ previous work that was also discussed on agclimate.net.

Native sagebrush steppe with windmills in the background, cattle in the mid-ground, and water tubs in the foreground

Supplemental water helps encourage more distributed grazing across rangelands near Ellensburg, WA. Photo: CAHNRS Communications

Continue reading

Check it out: Looking into New Technologies, Governance and Market Ideas to Improve our Use of Water

By Sonia A. Hall

Water is a precious resource in the Columbia River Basin, and climate change could lead to changes in factors that affect how to most efficiently allocate water to the many uses and values in the region, a challenge even now. This future is not bleak, however. A research team led by Jon Yoder at Washington State University has been funded to develop new technologies to help decision-makers improve how they use water to meet the diverse needs of farms, people, fish and the rivers themselves. Check out this article on their research plans into smart market technology, seasonal forecasting, and automated monitoring of agricultural (and other) water use.

Apricot orchard in bloom, with storm clouds overhead.

Seasonal forecasting of water availability and crop productivity can inform the decisions of potential water market participants. Photo: Flickr user Pictoscribe under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

Check it out: Drought Worsens in the Northwest

By Gabrielle Roesch-McNally

Conifer forests with trees surrounded by smoke.

Wildfires continue to burn across the region. Photo: Hallie Decime under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

The National Integrated Drought Information Systems, via Drought.gov, working with a team of Northwest stakeholders, have just put together and released a new Drought Status Update that highlights current drought conditions that are affecting the Northwest. Continue reading

To Adapt to Change in the Inland Pacific Northwest, or Not to Adapt

By Gabrielle Roesch-McNally

Multiple climate projections for the Pacific Northwest suggest that our region’s agriculture will be impacted as our climate continues to change. Are farmers preparing for these changes? And if not, why not? These are the questions I hoped to answer as part of my research.

Rolling hills with green wheat field in the foreground and flowering yellow canola in the background

Wheat and canola crops planted at the Washington State University’s Cook Agronomy Farm near Pullman, WA. Photo: Gabrielle Roesch-McNally.

Continue reading

Check it out: It’s not only the timing of water supply that’s shifting

By Sonia A. Hall

Irrigated pasture in Blaine County, Idaho. Water demand for irrigation is expected to start earlier in the season as the climate changes. Photo: Mark Goebel under CC BY 2.0.

Turns out that understanding how changes in climate are affecting the demand for water for irrigation in the Columbia River Basin is really important for our overall understanding of how water use and management may need to change in the future. Check out this Washington State University newsletter article on a recent study into this topic, led by AgClimate’s sometime-contributor Kirti Rajagopalan.

 

Reference:

Rajagopalan, K., Chinnayakanahalli, K.J., Stockle, C.O., Nelson, R.L., Kruger, C.E., Brady, M.P., Malek, K., Dinesh, S.T., Barber, M.E., Hamlet, A.F. and Yorgey, G.G., 2018. Impacts of Near‐Term Climate Change on Irrigation Demands and Crop Yields in the Columbia River Basin. Water Resources Research, 54(3), pp.2152-2182. https://agupubs.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/2017WR020954  

Check it out: The arid west is expanding

By Sonia A. Hall

Landscapes west and east of the 100th meridian. Left: Rangeland country in Idaho. Photo: Sonia A. Hall. Right: Soybean crops in Iowa. Photo: Parshotam Lal Tandon, under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

The contrast between the arid west—rangelands, wheat, conifer forests, irrigated agriculture—and the Midwest’s Great Plains—corn, soybean, prairies—is well known. There is a somewhat abrupt line separating arid from humid, close to the 100th meridian. That line is now shifting, as climate change affects temperatures, precipitation, and wind patterns that control that arid-to-humid line. Take a look at a recent study from Columbia University on how the line is shifting eastward from the 100th meridian. And you might want to start with the blog article “The 100th Meridian, Where the Great Plains Begin, May Be Shifting.

 

References:

Seager, R., N. Lis, J. Feldman, M. Ting, A.P. Williams, J. Nakamura, H. Liu, and N. Henderson, 2018: Whither the 100th Meridian? The Once and Future Physical and Human Geography of America’s Arid–Humid Divide. Part I: The Story So Far. Earth Interact., 22, 1–22, https://doi.org/10.1175/EI-D-17-0011.1 

Seager, R., J. Feldman, N. Lis, M. Ting, A.P. Williams, J. Nakamura, H. Liu, and N. Henderson, 2018: Whither the 100th Meridian? The Once and Future Physical and Human Geography of America’s Arid–Humid Divide. Part II: The Meridian Moves East. Earth Interact., 22, 1–24, https://doi.org/10.1175/EI-D-17-0012.1 

Tree Planting and Provenance Testing in Response to Climate Change

By Chris Schnepf

Many countries enthusiastically plant trees that are not native to their shores. One of the best examples is New Zealand, which has extensive plantations of genetically improved Pinus radiata, a species native to northern California and known here as Monterey pine. If you noticed pine forests that humans, elves, and orcs scurried through in the Lord of the Rings movies (filmed in New Zealand), you were likely looking at planted, non-native trees. Continue reading