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

Let the worms do the work – Critters help dairies manage manure

By: Sonia A. Hall

Got milk? Dairies are in the milk business, but must also manage manure produced along the way, and the potentially useful nutrients it holds. Photo: NRCS in Oregon under CC BY-ND 2.0.

Managing manure is a big part of what goes on at the “back end” of a dairy. Doing it well is important to avoid impacts on surrounding neighbors due to odors, impacts on air and water quality, or the release of unnecessary amounts of greenhouse gases such as methane or nitrous oxides (which, by the way, are respectively 28 and 265 times more powerful as global warming “blankets” than carbon dioxide). There are multiple technologies being developed, tested, and used to improve manure management in dairies. These include anaerobic digestion, which produces bioenergy and helps reduce odors (we provided an overview about a year ago in this article). Nutrient recovery technologies are another aspect being studied. These are an array of different technologies that allow us to collect the potentially useful nitrogen and phosphorus found in manure, so it can be used productively rather than contributing to climate change or other issues. 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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Adapting to a Changing Climate while Conserving Water and Growing Tastier Tomatoes

By Amy Garrett

Dry farmed crops grown by the Dry Farming Collaborative. Photos by Amy Garrett.

The Dry Farming Collaborative (DFC) brings together farmers interested in pursuing alternatives to irrigated agriculture for a variety of specialty crops including: tomatoes, potatoes, winter squash, zucchini, melons, dry beans, and corn.  Growers throughout western Oregon, Washington, and northern California, increasingly affected by climate change, farm lands without water rights, or with limited water availability. Some have water rights but are interested in conserving resources (time, energy, water, etc.) and producing tastier (and sometimes longer storing) produce for their markets . Continue reading

2017 Northwest Climate Conference in Tacoma – Oct 10-11, 2017

WA Dept of Ecology oblique shoreline photo archive, photo ID number 000924_114848, courtesy of Snohomish County.

Join us in Tacoma this October for the 8th Annual Northwest Climate Conference! The Northwest Climate Conference annually brings together more than 300 researchers and practitioners from around the region to discuss scientific results, challenges, and solutions related to the impacts of climate on people, natural resources, and infrastructure in the Pacific Northwest.  

The conference is the region’s premier opportunity for a cross-disciplinary exchange of knowledge and ideas about regional climate, climate impacts, and climate adaptation science and practice. The conference also provides a forum for presenting emerging policy and management goals, objectives, and information needs related to regional climate impacts and adaptation. Participants include policy- and decision-makers, resource managers, and scientists from academia; federal, state, and local agencies; sovereign tribal nations; non-governmental organizations; and the private sector.

Details regarding abstract submission, registration, and other program news will be added to the conference website in the coming weeks. In the meantime, please contact Lara Whitely Binder (lwb123@uw.edu) with any questions or for information on sponsorship opportunities.

 

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

Winter won’t end

Reposted from Climate of the Inland Northwest US

After a couple very mild winters across the inland northwest, we’ve been dealt a cool hand over the past 90 days while signs of the earliest bloom on record are being reported across much of the eastern US. And it’s a pattern that doesn’t seem to show any signs of changing in the next 8-14 days.

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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