Regional Changes

4 Ways Climate Change will disrupt the Northwest

1. Unfrozen

Earlier snowmelt means big changes in the timing of water flow – creating increased winter flows, earlier spring peak flows, and decreased summer flows! Messing with water patterns affects plants, animals and the farmers that depend on irrigation.

Reduced Summer Flow

Summer River Flow Northwest United States

Natural surface water availability, during what is already the dry late summer period, is projected to decrease across most of the Northwest. The map shows projected changes in local runoff (shading) and streamflow (colored circles) for the 2040s (compared to the period 1915 to 2006). Streamflow reductions like these would stress freshwater fish species such as endangered salmon and bull trout and necessitate increasing tradeoffs among conflicting uses of summer water.

2. Hope you have a houseboat & can leave the dock!

Sea levels rise and erosion are combining forces to wreak havoc on coastal homes, roads and marinas. Add in an earthquake, which can happen in this region, and things get really wet. 

Seattle houseboat

Houseboats line the docks in Seattle, WA. 

3. Forever-green?

The iconic evergreen forests are already threatened! Increasing wildfires, insect outbreaks and tree disease are causing big issues creating a lot of forest mortality by 2040. 

 Jeremy Littell, USGS

Forest mortality is already evident in the Northwest. Trees killed by a fire (left side) and trees killed by mountain pine beetle and spruce beetle infestations (orange and gray patches, right side) in the Okanogan Wenatchee National Forest, Washington. (Photo credit: Jeremy Littell, USGS).

4. Goodbye Oysters…

Delicious oysters from Washington state are struggling to reproduce thanks to carbon dioxide changing the oceans chemistry and making them more acidic. The coastal waters of the Pacific Northwest are currently among the most acidified worldwide.

Oyster Spat

Oyster larvae are particularly susceptible to the effects of ocean acidification. Photo from WGBH.

What is the National Climate Assessment?

The assessment, which has now been published in its third edition, focuses on our changing climate, highlighting current and future impacts of a warming world. This blog series will focus on topics that will most greatly affect the boating community and response strategies that can help diminish these trends and prepare for change. All graphs and images are from the National Climate Assessment website, unless otherwise noted. To read the full report visit: nca2014.globalchange.gov