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A long-term warming trend threatens the region's water supply, fish and other issues, scientists warn - Miles at U of Washington

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  • npat1@juno.com
    Climate experts forecast trouble A long-term warming trend threatens the region s water supply, fish and other issues, scientists warn 02/14/04 RICHARD L. HILL
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 14, 2004
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      Climate experts forecast trouble
      A long-term warming trend threatens the region's water supply, fish and
      other issues, scientists warn

      SEATTLE -- Multiyear droughts and more winter precipitation in the form
      of rain rather than snow could become commonplace in the Northwest,
      climate scientists said Friday

      New studies indicate that the Cascades are in trouble if climate
      projections for the coming decades are accurate, said Edward

      Miles, leader of the Climate Impacts Group at the University of

      Northwest temperatures will increase by about 3 to 6 degrees Fahrenheit
      by the 2040s, and the Cascades snowpack will decline by 59 percent by
      2050, Miles said.

      The gloomy scenario portends significant problems for the Northwest's
      hydropower, fish, irrigation and reservoirs.

      "If you think about this in terms of risk management, it's past time to
      buy some insurance," Miles said in reporting the findings at the annual
      meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. "And
      the insurance is planning. It takes 20 years to change a water supply
      system, so time's a-wastin'."

      Miles said the study by his group, the Scripps Institution of
      Oceanography and the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory updated their
      earlier projections, published a year ago in the journal Climatic
      Change. The study showed that future conditions could be even worse than
      scientists first thought.

      "These results are more dramatic than past results because we have more
      improved models that include much greater climate detail," Miles said in
      an interview.

      He also reported on a UW study completed last week with scientists from
      the University of Colorado that examined 800 snowpack records from 1950
      to 2000 for the entire West, from southern Arizona to central British
      Columbia and from the coastal mountain ranges to the Rockies.

      Although he declined to give details because the findings have not been
      published yet in a scientific journal, Miles said both the computer
      models and the direct observations tell the same story about the past
      half-century: About 75 percent of the West has seen declines in spring
      snowpack in excess of 30 percent in low to middle elevations. He added
      that the Cascades have been particularly hard-hit, along with mountain
      ranges in Northern California.

      Philip Mote, research scientist with the UW Climate Impacts Group, and
      Martin Clark of the University of Colorado found in their study that the
      Cascades' average April 1 snowpack had decreased by 60 percent between
      1950 and 2000. "I was expecting to see only a zero to 30 percent
      decline, so I was surprised by the results," Mote said in an interview.

      They also found that average temperatures had increased by between 2.5
      and 3.5 degrees Fahrenheit at many sites throughout Oregon and
      Washington since 1920.

      "What these observations emphasize in surprising detail is that the
      projections for the future are already coming true," said Mote, who is
      the Washington state climatologist. "It's not just saying that 50 years
      out that these things are going to happen; we're already on that path
      and farther along it than we knew."

      Mote said that the largest snowpack declines in the West are projected
      to be in the Cascades, and the new study shows that the greatest losses
      in the West during the past 50 years have been in the Cascades.

      Miles and his colleagues attribute the snowpack losses primarily to
      temperature increases. The Northwest has had a 1.5 degree increase in
      average annual temperature in the past century, nearly a half-degree
      more than the global temperature increase.

      In addition to foreseeing less snowpack, the scientists project that
      summer drought seasons will lengthen by about a month to six weeks.
      "Spring flow peaks will come earlier and won't be as large," Miles said,
      which will put more demands on water use from the Columbia and other

      Another Northwest scientist, L. Ruby Leung, a staff scientist at the
      Pacific Northwest Laboratory in Richland, Wash., reports in the current
      issue of the journal Climatic Change that global warming will diminish
      the amount of water stored in snow in the West's coastal mountains by as
      much as 70 percent in the next 50 years. Her study suggests that the
      decrease in snow cover from the Cascades to California's Sierra Nevada
      range will lead to increased fall and winter flooding and prolonged
      spring and summer drought.

      Leung said with more winter precipitation falling as rain instead of
      snow -- two-tenths of an inch to more than half an inch of rain a day --
      that would push the snow line up from 3,000 feet to 4,000 feet. She will
      describe her study's findings Monday to the 5,000 scientists attending
      the Seattle meeting.

      --------- Forwarded message ----------
      From: Robert T Maginnis
      To: Debate <Debate@...>
      Date: Sat, 14 Feb 2004 18:17:35 -0800
      Subject: warming trend threatens the region's water supply, fish

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