Share this story...
Latest News

Bigger storms, more rain in latest UW climate change outlook

Washington's climate might not be so appealing if predictions from a study released by group at the University of Washington come true. (Scott Terrell/Skagit Valley Herald via AP)

Climate refugees headed for Western Washington might want to first consider a study by the University of Washington.

The study released by the Climate Impacts Group this month shows that as temperatures rise, heavy rain is expected to become more frequent and intense.

Combined with rising sea level, an increase in ocean acidification, and more chances of landslides, the Pacific Northwest might not look like such an oasis.

Unfortunately for skiers and snowboarders, spring snowpack could decline by the 2040s. The average year is projected to have 23 percent less April 1 snowpack.

By 2050, the average year in the Puget Sound region could be up to 5.5 degrees warmer when compared to 1970-1999. Warming in the 21st Century could be at least double than what was experienced in the 20th Century. Crosscut points out that emergency medical calls in King County increase by 16 percent on extremely hot days and the death rate for people over 65 increases by 6 percent.

Sea level in Seattle is projected to rise by between 6.5 and 8 inches. That data is consistent with what a panel found over the summer; areas of Seattle, for example, could be flooded by 2050 due to rising sea level.

By the 2080s, the wettest days of the year are projected to receive 22 percent more precipitation. But because of the dryer temperatures overall and lower snowpack, that could lead to less water in reservoirs.

Back in the summer, University of Washington Climatologist Cliff Mass said we would know by the end of the summer if the Pacific Northwest is ready to deal with global warming. Though he recently reported that all the rain in the past few weeks boosted the region out of a drought, if rain becomes less frequent, that would mean a heavier reliance on rain storms.

With that said, the UW study shows that there may be an increase in landslide risk and erosion. Warmer water, low summer stream flow and higher winter stream flow, and acidification will negatively impact salmon.

Timing of biological events, too, could be altered as species respond to climate change. That could cause the Northwest to become “unsynchronized.” Forests may change further as trees adjust to the climate, which could increase the risk of wildfires.

Some good news is that warning would increase the length of the growing season. However, heat stress would decrease water availability, while flood risk increases.

So enjoy this weather while it lasts &#8212 even if it does knock out our power.

Most Popular