Global warming could impact climate, forests and snowpack
Seattle Times staff reporter
Research scientist Amy Snover earned a doctorate in environmental chemistry, studying atmospheric methane, a greenhouse gas. She now focuses on the intersection of science and policy at the Climate Impacts Group at the University of Washington.
Part of her job is briefing local lawmakers and resource managers on the impact of global warming. Whether it's the length of the ski season, the health of Washington forests or the potential for coastal flooding, climate change will transform the state, she says.
Q: If someone were transported 75 years into the future, would he or she notice a difference around here, climate-wise?
A: Definitely. You're talking about the 2080s — the temperature would be about 5 ½ degrees warmer on average from the last 30 years of the 20th century. Much warmer than now. It might be a teeny bit wetter in winter, but we wouldn't notice that. What we would notice is it's a lot warmer and, as a result, less snow in the mountains because it's raining instead of snowing.
Q: We have a lot of coastal areas in the state. What impact might rising sea levels have?
A: We'll definitely see some impacts. There's a big range of possibilities for how much sea levels might rise. There's a still a chance for pretty big rises, but if you're looking 75 years out, there's a really big "it depends" in the answer. What we do between now and then in terms of how much greenhouse gases we emit is really crucial in what it's going to look like in 75 years.
Q: Could Olympia, Hood Canal, Forks experience lifestyle changes?
A: The concerns are anywhere you have low-lying land. Olympia has been pointed out as being particularly vulnerable. Olympia has been doing some planning around that. A huge impact is ecosystems along the shore — as sea level rises, they get squeezed. That's a big concern for intertidal habitat.
Q: Could Washington forests be impacted by bugs surviving milder winters?
A: We're going to have increased mortality [of trees] because of insects. There'll be more insect outbreaks and insect-caused deaths and forest fires. Forests will look different.
Q: In the scope of the world, how vulnerable is the Northwest to climate changes?
A: That's an interesting question. Our snowpack is vulnerable to rising temperatures. ... What we have going for us that a lot of the world doesn't have is money and resources to prepare and adapt to the changes. If we plan thoughtfully, then the kinds of impacts we'll feel in our lives is nothing compared to someone whose country has disappeared.
Q: Some people say there is nothing we can do, the damage has already been done. If we look 75 years out, can anything we do today make a difference?
A: [Things we do now] make a huge difference. The amount of warming over the next 100 years is dependent on how much greenhouse gases we emit. The next two decades doesn't make a difference, but it makes a huge difference in the kind of planet we're going to leave when we're gone.
Alex Fryer: 206-464-8124 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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