NW Climate Science Digest

Aquatic Resources, Stream Flow, Hydrology in the Western U.S.

Global volume and distribution of groundwater and its vulnerability to climate change

Gleeson, T., Befus, K. M., Jasechko, S., Luijendijk, E., & Cardenas, M. B. (2015). The global volume and distribution of modern groundwater. Nature Geoscience.

In this new study, scientists updated a 40-year-old estimate of the Earth’s total volume of groundwater. The study compiled geochemical, geologic, hydrologic, and geospatial datasets with numerical simulations of groundwater, as well as analyzed modern groundwater (less than 50 years old) from tritium measurements. Modern groundwater is important because it is; 1) a better renewable resource than older groundwater, 2) a huge component of the hydrologic cycle as well as global biogeochemical cycles, and 3) more vulnerable to industrial or agricultural contamination. This study distinguishes modern groundwater from older groundwater by measuring tritium, an isotope of hydrogen whose concentration in precipitation peaked approximately 50 years ago (during above-ground thermonuclear testing). The study found that less than 6% (0.1-5.0 million km3) of the groundwater in the uppermost portion of Earth’s landmass is modern. Despite seeming minor, the volume of modern groundwater is equivalent to a body of water with a depth of about 3 m spread evenly over the continents. This water resource dwarfs all other components of the active hydrologic cycle and will be critical for future energy, food security, human health, and ecosystems.

Potential for snow to supply human water demand in present and future

Mankin, J. S., Viviroli, D., Singh, D., Hoekstra, A. Y., & Diffenbaugh, N. S. (2015). The potential for snow to supply human water demand in the present and future. Environmental Research Letters10(11), 114016.

A new study identifies drainage basins in the Northern Hemisphere that are at risk of losing their snow-supplied water source in the upcoming century. The study quantified where changes to snowmelt runoff are likely to present the most pressing adaptation challenges, given sub-annual patterns of human water consumption and water availability from rainfall. The researchers used a multi-model ensemble of climate change projections. The study found that the snow-dependent basins of the Northern Hemisphere that are at risk of losing their water supply are currently populated by 2 billion people. These basins were estimated to be exposed to a 67% risk of decreased snow supply. Of these basins, the researchers identified 32 that were found to be the most sensitive to change. Included in this category were basins in northern and central California (where very productive agricultural land exists), and the Colorado River basin that serves most of the American West. The results from this study come with irreducible uncertainty, however, and can mainly be used to emphasize the importance of snow for fulfilling human water demand in many Northern Hemisphere basins.

Arid Ecosystems

Contrasting distribution patterns of invasive and naturalized non-native species in a semi-arid montane ecosystem

Anderson, K. M., Naylor, B. J., Endress, B. A., & Parks, C. G. (2015). Contrasting distribution patterns of invasive and naturalized non-native species along environmental gradients in a semi-arid montane ecosystem. Applied Vegetation Science, 18(4), 683-693.

A new study examines differences in distribution patterns of invasive and naturalized non-native species along various environmental gradients in a semi-arid montane ecosystem. The researchers surveyed non-native plant species along three mountain roads to assess the extent of invasion success in relation to distance from the roadside, as well as along the native habitat matrix to assess invasion success in relation to elevation gradients. The study found that invasive species have similar patterns of habitat associations and spread from roadsides to interior vegetation zones, whereas naturalized species partition environmental gradients within the semi-arid montane ecosystem. The study further suggests that annual and invasive species groups occupy lower elevations and perennial and naturalized species groups have invaded further up the mountains roads and into the native vegetation. The study concluded that functional groupings potentially explain contrasting distribution patterns of non-native species. Findings from this research can be used to inform management strategies for non-native species, particularly in how such strategies must be modified to accommodate the difference in species behavior along environmental gradients.

Biodiversity/Species and Ecosystem Response

Assessing impacts of projected climate change on biodiversity in protected areas of western North America

Langdon, J. G., & Lawler, J. J. (2015). Assessing the impacts of projected climate change on biodiversity in the protected areas of western North America. Ecosphere6(5), art87.

A new study examines the climate-driven ecological change within protected area networks in order to help managers develop more effective climate-adaptation strategies. University of Washington scientists Jesse Langdon and Joshua Lawler quantified this projected change using three metrics: future projected changes in temperature and precipitation, shifts in major vegetation types, and vertebrate species turnover for the protected areas of the Pacific Northwestern region of North America. This study found that low elevation areas near the coast and throughout the Coastal Mountains were expected to experience the least climate-driven ecological change, whereas the higher elevation areas in the Rocky Mountains and Great Basin were expected to experience the most change. These findings will support the need to develop appropriate, location-specific climate-adaptation strategies for protected areas in response to disparate trends in future environmental change.

Recruitment limitation of long-lived conifers and climate change responses

Kroiss, S. J., & HilleRisLambers, J. (2015). Recruitment limitation of long-lived conifers: implications for climate change responses. Ecology96(5), 1286-1297.

A new study addresses the question of how seed availability and suitable germination microsites will limit tree species’ ability to shift their ranges in response to climate change. University of Washington scientists Steve Kroiss and Janneke HilleRisLambers assessed seed availability and the factors influencing germination for six conifer species across a large environmental gradient encompassing the species’ elevational ranges. Specifically, the study examined four factors: how parent-tree abundance influences annual seed availability, how seed limitation varies across species’ ranges, how climatic and biotic factors affect germination, and how seed and suitable microsite availability covary annually within and among species. The study found that seed availability decreased toward the upper edge of species’ range, and the researchers concluded that this outcome would lead to a lagged expansion in range. The study also found that microsite limitation varied strongly between low-elevation and treeline species due to varying responses to snowpack duration. Kroiss and HilleRisLambers ultimately conclude that the difference in species’ responses to seed and microsite limitation could lead to complex range shift dynamics.

Climate and Weather Reports and Services

Evaluation of a regional climate modeling effort for the western United States

Li, S., Mote, P. W., Rupp, D. E., Vickers, D., Mera, R., & Allen, M. (2015). Evaluation of a Regional Climate Modeling Effort for the Western United States Using a Superensemble from Weather@ home*. Journal of Climate28(19), 7470-7488.

Simulations from a regional climate model (RCM) as part of a superensemble experiment were compared with observations of surface meteorological variables over the western United States. The RCM is the Hadley Centre Regional Climate Model, version 3, with improved physics parameterizations (HadRM3P) run at 25-km resolution and nested within the Hadley Centre Atmosphere Model, version 3 (HadAM3P). Overall, the means of seasonal temperature were well represented in the simulations; 95% of grid points were within 2.78, 2.48, and 3.68C of observations in winter, spring, and summer, respectively. The model was too warm over most of the domain in summer except central California and southern Nevada. HadRM3P produced more extreme temperatures than observed. The overall magnitude and spatial pattern of precipitation were well characterized, though HadRM3P exaggerated the orographic enhancement along the coastal mountains, Cascade Range, and Sierra Nevada. HadRM3P produced warm/dry northwest, cool/wet southwest U.S. patterns associated with El Niño. However, there were notable differences, including the locations of the transition from warm (dry) to cool (wet) in the anomaly fields when compared with observations, though there was disagreement among observations. HadRM3P simulated the observed spatial pattern of mean annual temperature more faithfully than any of the RCM–GCM pairings in the North American Regional Climate Change Assessment Program (NARCCAP). Errors in mean annual precipitation from HadRM3P fell within the range of errors of the NARCCAP models. Last, this paper provided examples of the size of an ensemble required to detect changes at the local level and demonstrated the effect of parameter perturbation on regional precipitation.

Climate Change Preparedness Plan for the North Olympic Peninsula

A new report produces a climate change preparedness plan for the North Olympic Peninsula. The project synthesized the best available climate change projections with local stakeholder expertise of vulnerable sectors to ultimately develop climate change preparedness strategies for the North Olympic Peninsula. With this project and other similar efforts, the North Olympic Peninsula has a unique opportunity to promote collaboration on climate change adaptation between federal, state, local, and tribal governments, non-profit organizations, academic institutions, and private businesses. The project brought together more than 175 partners over the course of one year. Through virtual meetings and a series of in-person workshops, a climate change stakeholder network was built and the best available climate change science was compiled. Potential areas of concern were identified and assessed, and adaptation strategies were evaluated for Jefferson and Clallam counties. The project’s efforts resulted in an extensive report that has the potential to build overall climate resilience in the North Olympic Peninsula and promote the best possible future outcomes for the region’s inhabitants and ecosystems.

Superensemble regional climate modeling for the western U.S.

Mote, P. W., Allen, M. R., Jones, R. G., Li, S., Mera, R., Rupp, D. E., & Vickers, D. (2015). Superensemble regional climate modeling for the western US. Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, (2015).

Computing resources donated by volunteers have generated the first superensemble of regional climate model results, in which the Hadley regional model HadRM3P and atmospheric global model HadAM3P were implemented for the western US at 25km resolution. Over 136,000 valid and complete one-year runs have been generated to date: about 126,000 for 1960-2009 using observed sea surface temperatures (SSTs) and 10,000 for 2030-2049 using projected SSTs from a global model simulation. Ensemble members differ in initial conditions, model physics, and (potentially, for future runs) SSTs. This unprecedented confluence of high spatial resolution and large ensemble size allows high signal-to-noise ratio and more robust estimates of uncertainty. This paper describes the experiment, compares model output with observations, shows select results for climate change simulations, and gives examples of the strength of the large ensemble size.

State of Knowledge Report: Climate change in Puget Sound

State of Knowledge: Climate Change in Puget Sound is a comprehensive synthesis report summarizing relevant research on the likely effects of climate change on the lands, water, and people of the Puget Sound  wardregion. Part of the Climate Impacts Group’s “State of Knowledge” series, this report details observed and projected changes for Puget Sound’s climate, water resources, forests, species and ecosystems, coasts and ocean, infrastructure, agriculture, and human health in an easy-to-read summary format designed to complement the foundational literature (peer-reviewed science, community and agency reports, and publicly available datasets) from which it draws. The report also describes local climate change risk reduction activities and highlights data resources available to support local climate adaptation efforts. The work was funded by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency via the Puget Sound Institute at UW Tacoma, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the State of Washington.

Coastal/Marine Ecosystems, Ocean Acidification, Sea Level Rise

Pacific Ocean becomes a caldron

Schwartz, John. (2015). The Pacific Ocean Becomes a Cauldron. The New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/03/science/global-warming-pacific-ocean-e...

John Schwartz of the New York Times summarizes all the factors playing into why the Pacific Ocean has exhibited such anomalous behavior of late. Specifically recalling the extreme strength of Hurricane Patricia off the coast of Mexico, and the subsequent desire to peg it as the consequence of a specific event, Schwartz lists the myriad of climatic processes currently acting on the Pacific Ocean and therefore the difficulty in blaming the hurricane on a single cause. From the formation of a strong El Nino system along the Equator, to the “Blob” of warm water sitting off the North American coast, to the warming shift of the Pacific Decadal Oscillation, it is possible that the Pacific Ocean is experiencing extreme conditions formed through the combination of these individual processes. Schwartz interviewed Washington State Climatologist Nick Bond who concludes that the confluence of problems can serve as a “wake-up call,” and a harbinger of future conditions under climate change.

Climate change and marine vertebrates

Sydeman, W.J., E. Poloczanska, T.E. Reed, and S.A. Thompson. (2015). Climate change and marine vertebrates. Science 13 (350, no. 6262): 772-777, doi: 10.1126/science.aac9874

A new study published in the special Oceans and Climate section of Science examined the direct and indirect effects of anthropogenic climate change on marine vertebrates. The study reviewed marine fish, mammal, turtle, and seabird responses to climate change and discussed their potential for adaptation. The authors found that every observed ocean demonstrated both direct and indirect responses, and identified mechanisms of change to be direct physiological responses and climate-mediated predator-prey interactions. The endothermic organisms that the study observed (i.e. seabirds and mammals) responded indirectly to climate change, while the ectothermic fish were observed to respond immediately to small changes in temperature and oxygen concentration. The study emphasized that, although indirect responses are less immediate compared to those that are direct, they are powerful and difficult to reverse. The study concluded by stressing the need to integrate climate, oceanographic, ecosystem, and population models that incorporate evolutionary processes in order to prioritize climate-related conservation needs for marine vertebrates.

Response of pink salmon to CO2-induced aquatic acidification

Ou, M., Hamilton, T. J., Eom, J., Lyall, E. M., Gallup, J., Jiang, A & Brauner, C. J. (2015). Responses of pink salmon to CO2-induced aquatic acidification. Nature Climate Change5(10), 950-955.

A recent study published by Nature examines the related effects of ocean acidification on freshwater ecosystems. Specifically, the authors assess the impacts of CO2-induced acidification on the early development of pink salmon. Using predicted future levels of CO2 with a naturally fluctuating CO2 treatment, the researchers measured growth, routine and maximum metabolic rate, levels of anxiety, and olfactory and anti-predator responses to conspecific alarm cues in various stages of development. The study concluded that acidification produced negative effects on the growth, metabolism, olfactory responses, and anti-predator behavior in pink salmon during freshwater development and post-seawater entry. This study extends the risk of ocean acidification to freshwater ecosystems and highlights the importance of climate change mitigation.

Fire

Prescribed fire risks relative to other management techniques

Twidwell D, Wonkka CL, Sindelar MT, Weir JR (2015) First Approximations of Prescribed Fire Risks Relative to Other Management Techniques Used on Private Lands. PLoS ONE 10(10): e0140410. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0140410

A new study tests the general perception that prescribed fire is a riskier technique relative to other land management options. The researchers used a three different approaches to test this notion: 1) a comparison of fatalities resulting from different occupations that are proxies for techniques employed in land management, 2) a comparison of fatalities resulting from wildland fire versus prescribed fire, and 3) an exploration of causal factors responsible for wildland fire-related fatalities. The results of this did not support using risks of landowner fatalities as justification for the use of alternative land management techniques, such as mechanical equipment, over prescribed fire. The study provides the foundation for agencies to establish data-driven decisions regarding the degree of support they provide for prescribed burning on private lands.

Issues with fire suppression

Paveglio, T. B., Carroll, M. S., Hall, T. E., & Brenkert-Smith, H. (2015). ‘Put the wet stuff on the hot stuff’: The legacy and drivers of conflict surrounding wildfire suppression. Journal of Rural Studies41, 72-81.

A new study examines the social dynamics that influence conflict among local residents and outside professionals involved in wildfire management or suppression. Interviews were conducted with local residents of a southeastern Washington community in 2012 to better understand conflict surrounding wildfire management of the 2006 Columbia Complex fire. The results of this study demonstrated that conflict stemmed from differences in the norms characterizing the local community and the established practices of outside firefighters, the inability of these two groups to communicate in a way that established shared meanings for values at risk, and local residents’ desire to contribute to suppression efforts rather than give up complete control to outside resources. In addition to these sources of conflict, the authors extend their research to examine the long-term legacy of conflict surrounding the Columbia Complex fire. This included increased distrust of externally based fire response and entrenched views about locals’ right to protect their property. The study concluded by discussing the need to account for the legacy of conflict during future wildfire events and the reasons such conflict are likely to arise in rural or agricultural communities.

Forests

Regional variation in US forest carbon futures

Wear, D. N., & Coulston, J. W. (2015). From sink to source: Regional variation in US forest carbon futures. Scientific reports, 5: 16518. doi:10.1038/srep16518.

Scientists David Wear and John Coulston from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service have published a new study examining regional variation in the role of future U.S. forests in carbon sequestration. Currently, forests of the conterminous U.S. act as a sink for carbon with a net sequestration of 173 Tg of atmospheric carbon per year. This sink offsets 9.7% of carbon emissions from transportation and energy sources, and is considered an important player in reducing the U.S.’s overall carbon emissions to target levels. The results of this study project a gradual decline in the forest carbon emission sink over the next 25 years, to approximately 112 Tg of atmospheric carbon per year. This overall decline varies among different regions of the U.S. The eastern regions displayed a more gradual decline whereas the Rocky Mountains declined more rapidly. Furthermore the Rocky Mountains may become a source of atmospheric carbon due to disturbances such as fire and insect epidemics. Conversely, carbon sequestration in the Pacific Coast region was projected to stabilize because of forests harvested in previous decades that will continue to regrow. Overall declines in sequestration were still predicted when including climate-induced productivity enhancement and afforestation policies aimed at increasing sequestration rate. Wear and Coulston believe this is because of the huge source of atmospheric carbon that comes from forest disturbances and forest aging. The results of this study clarify forests’ role in reducing net emissions and demonstrates that retention of forest land is crucial for protecting or enhancing sink strength.

Emerging dominance of forest decline

Cohen, W. B., Yang, Z., Stehman, S. V., Schroeder, T. A., Bell, D. M., Masek, J. G., & Meigs, G. W. (2016). Forest disturbance across the conterminous United States from 1985–2012: The emerging dominance of forest decline. Forest Ecology and Management360, 242-252.

This recent publication presents the first direct comparison of annual trends among forest disturbance causal agent classes for the conterminous United States as a whole and for five distinct forested regions of the country using consistent methods across classes and over a several-decade time period (1985-2012). To do this, the study used visual based interpretation of Landsat time series supported by high spatial resolution imagery in Google Earth and ancillary disturbance datasets from government agencies. The report found national rates of disturbance varied between 1.5% and 4.5% of forest area per year, with trends being strongly affected by shifting dominance among specific disturbance agent influences at the regional scale. National harvest disturbance rates varied as well and were largely a function of harvest in the more heavily forested regions of the U.S. (Mountain West, Northeast, and Southeast). The results from this study indicate shifting forest disturbance dynamic over the past several decades. Prior to the late-90s disturbance patterns were largely driven by anthropogenic forces (e.g., harvest) and since the late-90s, natural forces (e.g., climate, insects, and disease) have dominated national disturbance rates. The authors conclude by emphasizing that similar studies are possible to be carried out for other countries where there are sufficient Landsat data and historical temporal snapshots of high-resolution imagery.

Land Use

Effects of climate change on U.S. air quality

Gonzalez-Abraham, R., Chung, S. H., Avise, J., Lamb, B., Salathé Jr, E. P., Nolte, C. G., & Streets, D. G. (2015). The effects of global change upon United States air quality. Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics15(21), 12645-12665.

A new study published in Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics examines the effects of global changes on air quality in the United States. Air quality was measured based on ambient concentrations of ozone and particulate matter with diameter smaller than 2.5 μm (PM2.5). The scientists conducted a comprehensive modeling effort to evaluate the effects of climate change, biogenic emissions, land use and global/regional anthropogenic emissions on ozone and PM2.5 concentrations and composition. The results of this study suggest that the efforts to improve air quality through low emission technologies and public policy directed to the electricity generation sector may not have a major effect, if future emissions from other sectors are allowed to increase. In addition, higher global anthropogenic emissions, a warmer future world and the effects of these changes on emissions from biogenic sources may increasingly undermine all regulatory efforts. Consequently, additional measures may be necessary to improve air quality in the U.S.

Climate change impacts on the Willamette River Basin

Turner, D. P., Conklin, D. R., & Bolte, J. P. (2015). Projected climate change impacts on forest land cover and land use over the Willamette River Basin, Oregon, USA. Climatic Change133(2), 335-348.

A new study attempts to further understand how Pacific Northwest ecosystem services will be impacted by with future warming in order to inform future planning efforts. Scientist David Turner from Oregon State University (OSU) collaborated with David Conklin (Common Futures LLC) and John Bolte (OSU) to examine how forest cover and land use over the Willamette River Basin will be affected by climate change. The results of this study showed that dominant potential vegetation cover type remained forest throughout the basin, but forest type transitioned from primarily evergreen needleleaf to a mixture of broadleaf and needleleaf that was adapted to a warmer climate. By 2100, there was a difference between potential and actual forest type for 20-50% of the forested area. In the moderate to high climate change scenarios, the average area burned per year increased three-to-nine-fold from the present day. A generally more distributed and open forest landscape is expected, which may significantly alter the hydrologic cycle.

Climate change and migration in the Puget Sound region

Saperstein, A. 2015. Climate Change, Migration, and the Puget Sound Region: What We Know and How We Could Learn More. Report prepared for the University of Washington Climate Impacts Group. The Daniel J. Evans School of Public Policy and Governance, University of Washington, Seattle.

This report responds to the interests of the University of Washington’s Climate Impacts Group and its stakeholders in the claim that climate change will cause an unanticipated surge of newcomers to move to the Puget Sound region. This systematic literature review of media coverage, peer-reviewed social science research, and agency reports assesses this “climate refugee hypothesis” in light of what is known about both the influence of climate change upon migration and the nature of Puget Sound’s existing migration system. A synthesis of this information suggests that a sudden and dramatic population increase is unlikely to occur, given the nature of anticipated climate impacts in Puget Sound’s migration system and the fact that migration into Puget Sound is driven primarily by economic factors. However, climate change could have some effect on population flows, both directly and indirectly through its economic impacts, and population forecasting currently does not fully account for these possible consequences. Many researchable questions remain about the influence of climate forces upon migration into the region both now and in the future. Pursuing one or more of these investigations could better prepare regional public service providers for demographic changes that could result from climate change.

Special Reports / Announcements

Billy Frank Jr. to receive Presidential Medal of Freedom

Billy Frank Jr., the Nisqually native rights activist whose protests and fish-ins during the 1960s and 1970s often landed him in jail, will be posthumously awarded the nation’s highest civilian accolade, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, on November 24, the White House announced on Monday. “Billy Frank Jr. was a tireless advocate for Indian treaty rights and environmental stewardship, whose activism paved the way for the Boldt decision, which reaffirmed tribal co-management of salmon resources in the state of Washington,” the White House said in a release. Born and raised just outside the Nisqually Reservation on a small homestead known as Frank’s Landing, the former chairman of the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission was arrested an estimated 50 times by game wardens for fishing with a gillnet on the Nisqually River. Commercial fishing and the post World War II rise of sport fishing increased the pressure put on state wildlife officials to limit fishing by Native tribes. Billy and his family were turned into outlaws for doing what they had done for untold generations.

World Meteorological Organization Announcement on the state of Greenhouse Gases in the Atmosphere

The World Meteorological Organization in cooperation with the World Data Centre for Greenhouse Gases and the Global Atmosphere Watch Scientific Advisory Group on Greenhouse Gases has released its eleventh annual Greenhouse Gas Bulletin. The report compiles latest information of atmospheric abundances and rates of change of the most important long-lived greenhouse gases: carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide. The Bulletin also provides a summary of other gases contributing to the greenhouse effect of our atmosphere.

Taking Action

Stakeholders in climate science: beyond lip service?

Klenk, N. L., Meehan, K., Pinel, S. L., Mendez, F., Torres, P., Lima, D., & Kammen, M. (2015). Stakeholders in climate science: Beyond lip service. Science350(6262), 743-744.

A recently published paper in Science assesses the current state of transdisciplinary climate research and how different research networks engage with their stakeholders. The study categorized a set of 27 climate change research networks that perform various knowledge functions and exhibit different forms of stakeholder engagement, from distributing knowledge to users to coproducing it with stakeholders. The sets of networks were analyzed to 1) compare examples of climate change research networks and elicit the patterns of knowledge functions, 2) demonstrate that many networks are emphasizing knowledge coproduction with stakeholders, and 3) build an interactive database of networks so as to ignite broader dialogue on the role of stakeholders in science. The results from this research suggest that climate change science can have a robust social impact when stakeholders are an active and engaged part of the research network community.

Paris Climate Change Conference 2015

The 21st United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP21) is taking place in Le Bourget, France from November 30 – December 11. This year’s conference is particularly significant because it is expected that a new international agreement on climate change will be agreed upon. The New York Times is reporting complete coverage of the meeting and synthesizing the important highlights.

New King County climate goals

King County Executive Dow Constantine signed a renewed, regional plan to address climate change over the next half-century. The Strategic Climate Action Plan (SCAP) is King County’s blueprint for climate action, and provides “one-stop-shopping” for county decision-makers, employees, and the general public to learn about the County’s climate change commitments. The 2015 SCAP charts a clear pathway to achieve a clean energy future, where the region’s local governments, businesses and communities are working together towards an equitable, sustainable and thriving King County for all who live, work and play here. Sydney Brownstone of The Stranger has condensed the 151-page SCAP into a comprehensive summary.

Tribal and Indigenous Peoples Matters

Engaging indigenous peoples and honoring traditional knowledge systems

Maldonado, J., Bennett, T. B., Chief, K., Cochran, P., Cozzetto, K., Gough, B., & Voggesser, G. (2015). Engagement with indigenous peoples and honoring traditional knowledge systems. Clim Chang. doi10, 1007.

The organizers of the 2014 US National Climate Assessment (NCA) made a concerted effort to reach out to and collaborate with Indigenous peoples, resulting in the most comprehensive information to date on climate change impacts to Indigenous peoples in a US national assessment. Yet, there is still much room for improvement in assessment processes to ensure adequate recognition of Indigenous perspectives and Indigenous knowledge systems. This article discusses the process used in creating the Indigenous Peoples, Land, and Resources NCA chapter by a team comprised of tribal members, agencies, academics, and nongovernmental organizations, who worked together to solicit, collect, and synthesize traditional knowledge and data from a diverse array of Indigenous communities across the US. It also discusses the synergy and discord between traditional knowledge systems and science and the emergence of cross-cutting issues and vulnerabilities for Indigenous peoples. The challenges of coalescing information about climate change and its impacts on Indigenous communities are outlined along with recommendations on the types of information to include in future assessment outputs. The authors recommend that future assessments should support integration of Indigenous perspectives in a sustained way that builds respectful relationships and effectively engages Indigenous communities. Given the large number of tribes in the US and the current challenges and unique vulnerabilities of Indigenous communities, a special report focusing solely on climate change and Indigenous peoples is warranted.

Low coho salmon returns close Quinault Fisheries

Low returns of wild coho salmon are prompting the Quinault Indian Nation to close all its fisheries in Grays Harbor and Queets River and to declare an economic disaster because of the resulting hardship on fishermen and their families. Quinault President Fawn Sharp stated the difficulty in deciding to close the fisheries, as this will have serious economic consequences on the Quinault community. Days before the Quinault Indian Nation made this decision, similar moves were made by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. Sharp concluded by saying that the drastically low salmon returns should be seen as reflective of ocean health as a whole.

Quinault Indian Nation confronts climate change

The Quinault Indian Nation has to confront the question of abandoning lands it has inhabited for thousands of years. Located on the outer coast of Washington’s Olympic Peninsula, the Nation relies on a 2,000 foot-long sea wall to protect them against sea level rise. The Indian Nation has developed a $60 million plan to move the entire village uphill and out of harm’s way. The Quinault Nation’s president Fawn Shaw says she will be turning to Congress, philanthropists, and the tribe’s own financial resources to pay for this project. In addition to the threat of sea level rise, the Quinault Indian Nation is also dealing with the depletion of the Quinault River, the community’s main freshwater source, as well as the decline of salmon populations, an industry that the nation heavily relies upon. Shaw will be attending the climate talks in Paris as a voice for her community.