Publications

Trends in temperature and precipitation in the Pacific Northwest during the twentieth century

Citation

Mote, P.W. 2003. Trends in temperature and precipitation in the Pacific Northwest during the twentieth century. Northwest Science 77(4): 271-282.


Abstract

Documenting long-term trends or persistent shifts in temperature and precipitation is important for understanding present and future changes in flora and fauna. Carefully adjusted datasets for climate records in the USA and Canada are combined and used here to describe the spatial and seasonal variation in trends in the maritime, central, and Rocky Mountain climatic zones of the Pacific Northwest.

Trends during the 20th century in annually averaged temperature (0.7°C-0.9°C) and precipitation (13%-38%) exceed the global averages. Largest warming rates occurred in the maritime zone and in winter and at lower elevations in all zones, and smallest warming rates occurred in autumn and in the Rockies. Largest increases in precipitation (upwards of 60% per century) were observed in the dry areas in northeast Washington and south central British Columbia. Increases in precipitation were largest in spring, but were also large in summer in the central and Rocky Mountain climatic zones. These trends have already had profound impacts on streamflow and on certain plant species in the region (Cayan et al. 2001), and other important impacts remain to be discovered. The warming observed in winter and spring can be attributed partially to climatic variations over the Pacific Ocean, and the buildup of greenhouse gases probably also plays an important role.