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Climate model predicts west Antarctic ice sheet could melt rapidly

The west Antarctic ice sheet is thought to be potentially vulnerable to disintegration from a relatively small amount of global warming, and capable of raising the sea level by 12 feet or more should it break up. But researchers long assumed the worst effects would take hundreds — if not thousands — of years to occur. Now, new research suggests this scenario could play out much sooner. Continued high emissions of heat-trapping gases could launch a disintegration of the ice sheet within decades, according to a study published Wednesday, heaving enough water into the ocean to raise the sea level as much as three feet by the end of this century. 

Read more at NY Times

New report underscores the impacts of climate change on Western water resources

Putting the national spotlight on the importance of water sustainability, the Department of the Interior and the Bureau of Reclamation released a basin-by-basin report that characterizes the impacts of climate change and details adaptation strategies to better protect major river basins in the West that are fundamental to the health, economy, security and ecology of 17 Western states. The SECURE Water Act Report, produced by Interior’s Bureau of Reclamation and its state and local partners, was released following today’s first White House Summit on Water in observance of World Water Day. 

Read more about the report

New Report: Attribution of extreme weather events in the context of climate change

As climate has warmed over recent years, a new pattern of more frequent and more intense weather events has unfolded across the globe. Climate models simulate such changes in extreme events, and some of the reasons for the changes are well understood. Warming increases the likelihood of extremely hot days and nights, favors increased atmospheric moisture that may result in more frequent heavy rainfall and snowfall, and leads to evaporation that can exacerbate droughts. Even with evidence of these trends, scientists cautioned in the past that individual weather events couldn’t be attributed to climate change. Now, with advances in understanding the climate science behind extreme events and extreme event attribution, such blanket statements may not be accurate. 

Download the report

Video contest challenges students to creatively define climate change

The UW’s School of Environmental and Forest Sciences is hosting its second-annual contest for undergraduate and high school students in WA to create videos about what climate change means to them, in three minutes or less. The top five entries in each age group will be critiqued and judged by a panel of climate scientists, artists and filmmakers and screened in a public viewing at Seattle’s Town Hall this spring. First-place teams in both age categories will win $5,000, second-place finishers will get $1,000 and third-place contestants will win $500. The contest runs until April 4, and is open to any student in the state who wants to enter as an individual or as part of a team. 

Read more at UW Today

Upcoming Presentation | Incorporating climate change projections into water crossing design

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) provides technical guidance for the design of hundreds of fish passable water crossing structures that are constructed or repaired each year in Washington. In addition, WDFW permits fish passage structures on all lands except those covered under Forest Practice rules and designs fish passage structures for its own lands. None of WDFW’s actions ensure that the culvert designs meet high scientific standards to specifically account for changes in hydrology resulting from climate change. We evaluated the current WDFW culvert design and permitting decision process to identify design elements and decision points potentially sensitive to climate change impacts. 

Learn more about the presentation

Upcoming Presentation | Predicting climate change impacts on shallow landslide hazards

In the Western U.S., landslides are a major mechanism of landscape change. Landslides transport sediment to streams, often contributing to damage of downstream infrastructure. Site-specific traits (e.g., slope) control the pre-conditioning of hillslopes to failure, while triggering factors (e.g., rainfall) lead to losses in strength initiating landslides.  There is need to unify geologic and hydroclimatic research to provide regional-scale landslide prediction for resource management and climate adaptation strategies.  This dissertation develops a landslide probabilistic model that derives hillslope inherent and dynamic stability driven by hydrologic simulations from the Variable Infiltration Capacity (VIC) model. 

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Upcoming Presentation | Integrating climate change into fish habitat restoration planning

This presentation will address the improvement in coordination between Clean Water Act compliance, ESA species recovery, and consequences of climate change for place-based Native American Groups. The discussion will update the UW community on the current status of temperature modeling for the South Fork Nooksack TMDL project, and summarize climate change integration into the Nooksack Indian Tribe’s habitat restoration program. 

Learn more about the presentation

Winter was record warm for the contiguous U.S.

A strong El Niño helped fuel a warm and wet winter for the United States.  The average temperature for the contiguous U.S. during winter (December – February) was 4.6°F above the 20th century average, a new record, according to scientists from NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information.  Alaska had its second warmest winter on record.  The winter precipitation total for the contiguous U.S. was 1.26 inches above the 20th century average, ranking as the 12th wettest winter on record for the Lower 48 states and the wettest since 1997/1998. 

Read more on the NOAA website

Office of the Washington State Climatologist March newsletter is released

The OWSC Newsletter contains information on the current state of Washington’s climate, including the current outlook and a review of notable climate and weather events. Topics covered in the March issue include: a February climate summary; a note on a historic bird mortality event on the coast; snowpack and drought update; the temperature and precipitation outlook. The newsletter is produced monthly and will be available on the OWSC website or by e-mail subscription. 

Read More on the OWSC website

Seattle City Light releases 2015 Climate Change Vulnerability Assessment and Adaptation Plan

In 2015, Seattle City Light developed a Climate Change Vulnerability Assessment and Adaptation Plan. The plan assesses the potential impacts of climate change to the utility and identifies actions that can be taken to reduce vulnerability and increase resilience. The plan will be used to guide the implementation of climate change adaptation actions throughout the utility. 

Read the report
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