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Perspectives on Sustainability - CSANR Blog

  • Being prepared: what we got can help us understand what to expect

    October 12, 2015

    As I shared in my last post, “Climate is what you expect, and weather is what you get.” But if the climate is changing, and part of what experts predict is that we’ll see more extreme weather and weather-related events—think floods, droughts, big storms—what should we expect?

    Chelan, WA vineyard. Photo: A. Simonds

    Wine grapes; a crop of growing importance in eastern Washington that tolerates drought better than other important crops. Photo: A. Simonds

    More than one research group is working hard to develop models that can help answer this and other questions. They are also working to collect real-world data against which to compare the model projections, to improve our confidence in what these models tell us. It is this combination of data and good models—models that do a good job at representing what actually happens in the real world—that would allow us to say to what extent a particular event is due to a changing climate, and how much is just the natural, year-to-year variability that we are all used to experiencing.

  • Being prepared: what you get is not necessarily what you expect

    October 8, 2015
    The Grizzly Bear Complex Fires located southeast of Dayton, WA began on Aug. 13, 2015.   Photo: USFS.

    The Grizzly Bear Complex Fires located southeast of Dayton, WA began on Aug. 13, 2015. Photo: USFS.

    A concerned citizen wrote a letter to the editor of my local paper recently, complaining about how weather, climate, and climate change had been used almost interchangeably. Reading that letter got me thinking about the active scientific discussion on whether extreme weather or weather-driven events like floods and wildfires—the latter very much on our radar in eastern Washington this year—are due to climate change. And more importantly, it got me thinking about how to best take advantage of what we know, even when there are some complex issues we still don’t fully understand. Here I tackle the difference between weather and climate, and in a future post I will discuss what we know—and don’t—about climate change impacts and how what we do know can be useful.

  • Early preparation for water transfers could reduce drought impacts for agriculture and fish

    September 29, 2015

    As this hot, dry summer winds down across Washington State, many areas are continuing to struggle with the impacts of drought.  (Those who would like a recap of August weather and drought conditions can see the WSU Drought Report here.)

    Unfortunately, while the weather has become more fall-like, with welcome rain in some areas, all climate indicators point towards increased chance of warmer and somewhat drier than normal conditions through mid-2016 – as shown in the three month forecast from the Climate Prediction Center (see the maps below). Indicators consistent with this forecast include recent observations of a strong El Niño, forecasts of an 85% or greater likelihood of El Niño persisting through next spring, and a positive Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO) signal[1]. Together, this all points to a likelihood of reduced snowpack this winter – and limited water availability again next summer and fall.

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