How might climate change affect Oregon?

Average Temperature Plot

Oregon is a beautiful coastal state located in the northwestern region of the United States with four distinct seasons: fall, winter, spring, and summer. The Cascade Mountains run down the western side of the state and split it into two different climates. Along the west of the mountains, near the ocean, the climate is very wet and in some parts, subtropical. On the eastern side of the mountains the climate is more arid and dry.

Several changes in climate are predicted for Oregon in the coming years, including further warming trends (increases of about 0.2 to 1 degree F per decade through the 21st century) and drier summers. The United States Historical Climatology Network has been collecting temperature data throughout Oregon for several decades, and recent data indicate an increase in average yearly temperatures at all of their weather stations. Information about average yearly precipitation is more variable and trends are still unclear.

Further changes to Oregon's climate in coming decades may include: an increase in the length of growing seasons, an increasing number of frost-free days, and a decrease in snowpacks in the Cascades to half of current levels by mid-century. William Finley Visitors Warmer temperatures, in combination with decreased snowpacks, may lead to peak flows earlier in the year and water shortages later in the season.Agriculture will have to adapt to decreased availability of and increased demand for water resources and farmers will need to adjust their crops with changing growing conditions. New agricultural pests and diseases can also be expected to move into Oregon.

Along Oregon's coast, sea levels are likely to rise, lowering beach elevations and causing problems for waterfront property owners. Coastal flooding will probably increase due to more intense storms. Rising air temperatures will lead to increases in ocean temperatures. Changing ocean temperatures will lead to lower dissolved oxygen levels and an altered environment for marine organisms. Oregon is already seeing species from warmer, southern regions move north into Oregon coastal waters.

What does this mean for the William L. Finley NWR?

CamasThe main purpose of the William L. Finley National Wildlife Refuge is to provide wintering habitat for Canada geese. Warming temperatures and potential changes in precipitation patterns may alter the way in which the Finley NWR staff manages the Refuge for these animals. Wildlands may be at a greater risk of increased wildfire frequencies and intensities. Plant and animal ranges may adjust to warming temperatures by moving further northward or upward. Insect species are already moving northward in Oregon and frogs are breeding earlier. It follows that Canada geese habits may also change in coming decades.


Photo: Visitors (middle) and Camas (bottom) at Finley NWR; Courtesy of the USFWS and George Gentry respectively.

Oregon Climate Change Research Institute. 2010. Oregon Climate Assessment Report, K.D. Dello and P.W. Mote (eds). College of Oceanic and Atmospheric Sciences, Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR.

Climatograph data from The Weather Channel website. Accessed Dec 2011.