Category Archives: Variability, Weather, & Extreme Events

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

National Climate Assessment Draft Report Open for Public Comment

Public Comment Period for National Climate Assessment

The National Climate Assessment is a U.S. government interagency report that summarizes the impacts of climate change on the United States, now and in the future. These reports are extensively reviewed by the public and experts, including federal agencies and a panel of the National Academy of Sciences.  The draft report has been completed, and is now available for public comment.

You can review and comment by visiting review.globalchange.gov before Jan 31!  Here’s the associated Federal Register Notice.

A series of webinars will be held to familiarize folks with the NCA and the Review & Comment website, we’re hosting a series of webinars including:

  • Wednesday, Dec 6, 5pm EST
  • Tuesday, Jan 16, 8pm EST

Webinar link: https://icf.globalmeet.com/NCAProjectWebinar
Call-in: (605) 475-5606
Passcode: 9663019548#

Building momentum for tackling climate change in the Northwest

By: Gabrielle Roesch McNally

Eagle Creek Fire: CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 Curtis Perry

2017 has certainly been a year of extremes, from record breaking rain and snow events to a long and dry summer across much of the Northwest. Dry and hot summer conditions were accentuated by massive forest fires across the West, many that impacted urban areas in ways not recently experienced  (e.g., Eagle Creek Fire outside Portland, OR), costing the country over $2 billion in suppression costs this year alone. Add in the catastrophic impacts of Hurricane Harvey, Irma, and Maria and you know how much extreme weather is on everyone’s minds. 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

Irrigation Efficiency Series (Part 1 of 2): Is efficiency the answer to managing water shortages?

By John Stevenson

After a particularly wet winter and spring and an above-average snowpack, it’s easy to put the past behind us and forget the several years of drought our region recently experienced.  But drought happens, as they say, and will certainly happen again.  So it is worth reflecting on how irrigators will better cope when drought returns. Across the West, irrigation efficiency has gained attention in this context, as a way to stretch the number of days that irrigation water is available when drought hits.

Furrow irrigation, traditionally used in the Northwest, and one of the targets for improving irrigation efficiency. Photo by Flickr user Hanna 3232, under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

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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

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