Report highlights climate change risks facing U.S. Northwest

Nov. 5, 2013 at 3:31 PM   |   Comments

CORVALLIS, Ore., Nov. 5 (UPI) -- The U.S. Northwest faces an array of issues, including the decline of forest health, low summer stream flows and risk of wildfires, a climate assessment found.

A report coordinated by the Oregon Climate Change Research Institute at Oregon State University said a number of issues are facing the Northwest as a result of climate change.

"As we looked across both economic and ecological dimensions, the three that stood out were less snow, more wildfires, and challenges to the coastal environment and infrastructure," said Amy Snover, director of the Climate Impacts Group at the University of Washington.

The report on the U.S. Northwest was produced as part of the U.S. National Climate Assessment.

"Studies are showing that snowmelt is occurring earlier and earlier and that is leading to a decline in stream flows in summer," Philip Mote, director of the Oregon climate change institute, said.

"Northwest forests are facing a huge increase in wildfires, disease and other disturbances that are both direct and indirect results of climate change.

"And coastal issues are mounting and varied, from sea level rise and inundation, to ocean acidification. Increased wave heights in recent decades also threaten coastal dwellings, roads and other infrastructure," he said.

Climate changes projected for the coming decades means many current assumptions about planning and policy will have to be re-assessed, Snover said.

"Whether the ultimate consequences of the climate impacts outlined in this report are severe or mild depends in part on how well we prepare our communities, economies and natural systems for the changes we know are coming," she said.

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