Publications

“Integrated Assessment of Climate Variability, Impacts, and Policy Response in the Pacific Northwest.”

Citation

Miles, E.L. 1995. “Integrated Assessment of Climate Variability, Impacts, and Policy Response in the Pacific Northwest.” US GLOBEC NEWS, No. 9 (November): pp. 4-5 and 14-15.


Abstract

This article describes a project concerned with the human and ecological implications/responses to two sources of global and regional climate variability. At the global scale, the focus is on anthropogenically-induced climate change as a result of the increasing concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere (IPCC 1990, 1992, 1994). The principal forcing function is represented by increasing emissions of CO2 and other greenhouse gases and the timescale of change is on the order of decades to centuries and perhaps millennia (Broecker, 1987).

At the regional scale, the focus is first on the projected regional climate response to anthropogenic greenhouse forcing and the impacts of such forcing on natural ecosystems, natural resources, and human activities. The timescale of change is on the order of decades to centuries. Secondly, however, we consider naturally-occurring climate variations on the regional scale in which the principal forcing functions are fluctuations in the coupled atmosphere/ocean/land system. The timescale of change here is seasons to decades.

In the Pacific Northwest (PNW), the dominant regional climate signal is linked to the large-scale, interannual climate phenomenon called El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) (Battisti and Sarachik, 1995). ENSO has been shown to have strong Pacific-wide effects with direct connections to regional climate anomalies over Australia, the Indian Ocean, and South America on seasonal/interannual timescales and with mid-latitude Northern hemispheric teleconnections on seasonal to decadal timescales (Graham 1994; and Trenberth 1994).

Since the ENSO phenomenon occurs on a much shorter timescale than the anthropogenic contribution to greenhouse forcing, we, like U.S. GLOBEC (U.S. GLOBEC 1994), choose to treat ENSO and its impacts as a model experiment of how global climate variability might affect natural ecosystems, natural resources, and human activities on a regional scale. In this connection, we are ultimately most concerned with the sensitivities and vulnerabilities of ecosystems, resources, and human activities to climate variability/change of all types and with what kinds of response strategies may make the most sense on different timescales.