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NW Fishletter #391, March 4, 2019

[8] Oregon Releases Fourth Climate Assessment Report

The Oregon Climate Change Research Institute released its 2019 report on the state of the climate in Oregon, concluding that the state is already experiencing impacts of climate change, but also noting that there are opportunities to adapt.

Examples of climate change in 2018 in the Fourth Oregon Climate Assessment Report included the extremely poor air quality from wildfires "near and far," and economic losses suffered by ranchers in southern and eastern Oregon due to low snowpack, lack of water and a hot and dry summer.

"Climate change touches all corners of Oregon, but our frontline communities are most vulnerable," the report's summary states. "These include the economically disadvantaged and those who depend on natural resources for their livelihood: rural residents including Native Americans."

The report says that the entire Pacific Northwest has warmed about 2 degrees Fahrenheit since 1900, with 2015 marking Oregon's warmest year on record.

It predicts that annual precipitation will not change, but extreme precipitation may occur and could lead to slope instability, landslides and closed highways. Hot days will become more frequent and could put farmworkers and other outdoor laborers at risk.

Nearly every location in Oregon has seen declining spring snowpack, and the trend is expected to continue, especially at lower elevations. Wildfire activity will increase, along with smoke.

The report also notes that climate change may offer opportunities for longer growing seasons. The state's $48.5-billion agriculture industry is an important part of the state's economy, the report noted. By the middle of this century, western Oregon could see its growing season lengthened by about two months, and the rest of Oregon by about one month. "Though some crops may thrive in a longer growing season, concerns about the incidence of pests and weeds, reduced crop quality, and increased irrigation demand may hamper production," the report states. Forests may also experience drought stress, and timber production could be affected.

Finally, the report notes that steps can be taken to reduce the risks. Creating plans to make agriculture more resilient, building water markets, and managing forests with natural resources and wildfire as considerations are among the suggestions, along with modernizing crucial infrastructure such as bridges, roads, buildings and culverts. "There is a need to build community capacity and leadership in frontline communities to participate in the processes of climate-related decisions," the report adds. -K.C. Mehaffey

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Publisher/Editor-in-Chief: Mark Ohrenschall, Editor: K.C. Mehaffey
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