November 30th, 2010 5:33 pm | by JESSICA LUTJEMEYER News | Posted In: CLEAN UP, Environment

New Study Forecasts Harsh Climate Changes in Oregon Over Next Century


Here's something to take your mind off today's incessant rain. A new report predicts Oregon's climate will get hotter, drier and harsher within the next century.

The Oregon Climate Assessment Report says the continual effect of global greenhouse gases will likely hit Oregon's freshwater supply hard. Various climate models estimate the state's average summer rainfall will decline by 14 percent by 2080, said Heejun Chang, a Portland State University geographer and hydrologist.

"In terms of water supply, some lower Willamette River sub-basins - including the Tualatin, Clackamas and Molalla Rivers, where population is growing - are more vulnerable to climate change," Chang said in a press release accompanying the report. Chang added that less summer precipitation will lead to less water flow in the Western Cascade regions, heightening stream temperatures and hurting cold-water fish species.

The report, issued today by the Oregon Climate Change Research Institute, was distributed to Gov. Ted Kulongoski, Senate President Peter Courtney and House Speaker Dave Hunt.

"Oregon faces some significant challenges because of a changing climate and this report synthesizes some of the best available science to gain a glimpse of our future," said Philip W. Mote, a professor of oceanic and atmospheric sciences at Oregon State University.

Other potential Oregon climate changes mentioned in the 400-page report include a one-meter rise in sea level by the year 2100, a decrease of nearly 50 percent in snowpacks, increased demand for irrigation and a larger chance for wildfires in all forest types.

The warmer temperatures, however, might mean a chance for longer growing seasons and larger harvests of crops, the report mentions, with a possibility for growing new types of crops.

Another cause for concern is the anticipated increase in ocean temperatures, which, according to the report, could upset marine ecosystems and lead to more severe storms and taller waves, creating a higher risk of flooding.
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