High tides, as seen in this file photo of Raymond’s Willapa Landing Park in Pacific County, could become the norm in the future due to sea level rise. Sound Publishing file photo

High tides, as seen in this file photo of Raymond’s Willapa Landing Park in Pacific County, could become the norm in the future due to sea level rise. Sound Publishing file photo

UW summarizes Washington climate impact on water

The report localizes information from the United Nations.

Climate change is affecting water systems in Washington, and with nearly 70 percent of the state’s population living near the coastline, it will likely affect life in the state in the coming decades.

A new summary published by the University of Washington’s Climate Impacts Group consolidated a September report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and localized it for the state. It illustrated how the state could be swept up in global changes to both oceans and the cryosphere, or Earth’s frozen regions. These places include glaciers on the Cascades and Olympics, as well as seasonal snowfall.

About 10 percent of the planet’s land is covered by glaciers or ice sheets, which coupled with permanent snow, contains roughly 70 percent of all freshwater on Earth. Some 1.35 billion people live in low-lying coastal areas or high-mountain regions, both of which are affected by either oceans or ice.

In the U.S., 42 percent of people live along the coasts, and in Washington, that percentage jumps to nearly 70.

As the planet’s average temperature has risen by about 1.8 degrees Celsius since pre-industrial times, the oceans have absorbed much of the heat. This has led to sea levels rising by roughly 6 inches between 1902 and 2015. Ice sheets at the poles have also retreated quickly, and nearly half of all coastal wetlands have been destroyed over the last 100 years, according to the report.

Coastal ecosystems are expected to keep warming, making marine heat waves that harm water quality, fish and other animals more common.

In Washington state between 2014 and 2016, the “blob” of unusually warm water off the West Coast resulted in seabird and marine mammal die-offs, according to the report. Sea surface temperatures were much warmer than average. Also in 2015, a drought led to 17 major crops experiencing reduced yields from limited water.

By 2040, it’s expected that sea surface temperature off Washington’s coasts will increase by about 2.2 degrees Fahrenheit compared to the 1970-1999 average. This will make dangerous algae blooms more likely.

Glaciers in the North Cascades also decreased by more than half between 1900 and 2009, which could increase water scarcity for crops. Average statewide snowpack is projected to decline under current emissions projections by up to 70 percent by the 2080s. More precipitation in the winter will likely fall as rain, increasing winter flood risks.

The report noted that the Paris Climate Agreement set a goal of limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, or about 2.7 Fahrenheit. Greenhouse gas emissions must be dramatically lowered to hit that target. Globally, the report said there needs to be a more than 90 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 to hit the target.


In consideration of how we voice our opinions in the modern world, we’ve closed comments on our websites. We value the opinions of our readers and we encourage you to keep the conversation going.

Please feel free to share your story tips by emailing editor@valleyrecord.com.

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website https://www.valleyrecord.com/submit-letter/. Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) We reserve the right to edit letters, but if you keep yours to 300 words or less, we won’t ask you to shorten it.

More in News

A look at COVID-related unemployment in Snoqualmie Valley

Economist says numbers are similar to what they’re seeing across the state.

Nurse Sylvia Keller, pictured with Gov. Jay Inslee, is on the front lines of the COVID-19 battle in Yakima County. Courtesy photo
Governor doubles down on mask rules

Inslee: Starting July 7, businesses do not serve those who do not wear a mask

State Capitol Building in Olympia. File photo
Politicians get pay raises, state workers get furloughs

A citizens panel approved the hikes in 2019. Unable to rescind them, lawmakers look to donate their extra earnings.

Human remains in West Seattle identified

Bags of body parts were found in a suitcase along a West Seattle beach on June 19.

Stock photo
Eastside burn ban implemented June 15

The ban will be effective through Sept. 30.

Courtesy of the SnoValley Chamber of Commerce Facebook page.
Annual count shows uptick in homelessness in Snoqualmie Valley

More people are living unsheltered in the valley.

According to King County’s Mental Illness and Drug Dependency (MIDD) annual report, Seattle had the highest rate of people using services at 36 percent of the total, followed by 31 percent from South King County, 18 percent from the greater Eastside, and 7 percent from north county including Shoreline. Courtesy image
Drug courts, officer de-escalation programs impacted by MIDD cuts

The fund provides money for mental illness and drug dependency programs across King County.

Summer vehicle travel projected to decrease this year

Traffic this summer will likely be lighter across Washington state than previous… Continue reading

Governor Jay Inslee smiles and laughs Sept. 3, 2019, during a speech at the Lynnwood Link Extension groundbreaking in Lynnwood. A Thurston County judge ruled he exceeded his authority when he vetoed single sentences in the state transportation budget in 2019. (Olivia Vanni / Herald file)
Judge invalidates Gov. Inslee’s veto in roads budget

Lawmakers said the governor crossed a constitutional line.

Most Read