From Puget Sound Institute: Climate Change in Puget Sound

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A major new report describing the projected impacts of climate change on Puget Sound is a collaboration with many partners, including UW Tacoma's Puget Sound Institute.

State of Knowledge: Climate Change in Puget Sound - UW Climate Impacts Group"Scientific evidence for warming of the climate system is unequivocal," says the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

This week the University of Washington Climate Impacts Group released a new report that outlines the impacts of climate change on the Puget Sound region. 

The report, "State of Knowledge: Climate Change in Puget Sound," is primarily the work of scientists affiliated with the College of the Environment on the Seattle campus.

Funding for the study came from UW Tacoma's Puget Sound Institute with additional support from a plethora of federal, state and private-sector partners.

Some of the highlights from the report, as summarized in a UW Today media release:

  • Average air temperatures in Puget Sound will rise by between 2.9 and 5.4 degrees Fahrenheit by the 2050s, for the most optimistic scenario of future greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Ocean levels will rise by 4 to 56 inches by 2100, with the latest predictions offering more specifics on geographic variability and the effects of storm surges.
  • Winter flooding will increase due to rising oceans, more winter precipitation falling as rain rather than snow, and more frequent and intense heavy rains.
  • Landslide prediction requires more research, but more rain in the winter and more extreme heavy rain events are expected to increase the overall risk of landslides.
  • Rivers are projected to carry more sediment downstream, as glaciers recede and expose loose material, and higher river flows and more intense rainfall will likely act to increase erosion.
  • Peak river flows are projected to rise the most in places such as the Snohomish River that have a lot of area around the snowline, where warming will cause precipitation to shift from snow to rain.
  • Warmer air, less meltwater and lower summer flows will combine to raise river temperatures in the summer, making many waterways less hospitable for salmon.
  • Heat waves are expected to become more frequent.
  • Agriculture west of the Cascades is very diverse, and the effects of climate change on this region are understudied.
  • Warmer oceans will likely favor more frequent toxic algae blooms.
  • Increasing acidity of seawater will affect the shellfish industry, and may increase the toxicity of some algal blooms. Impacts on other marine life are not yet fully known.

About the Puget Sound Institute

The Puget Sound Institute is a cooperative agreement between the University of Washington, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and the Puget Sound Partnership, seeking to catalyze rigorous, transparent analysis, synthesis, discussion and dissemination of science in support of the restoration and protection of the Puget Sound ecosystem. Funding for the Institute comes from the EPA, which was appropriated $50 million for cleaning up Puget Sound, including $4 million for creating the Institute.

The Puget Sound Institute publishes the Encyclopedia of Puget Sound, Salish Sea Currents magazine and the annual Puget Sound Fact Book.

Section: 
Written by: 
John Burkhardt / November 15, 2015
Media contact: 

John Burkhardt, UW Tacoma Communications, 253-692-4536 or johnbjr@uw.edu