8th Annual Northwest Climate Conference

Working Together to Build a Resilient Northwest

October 9-11, 2017


Conference Agenda

Oral Presentations   /   Poster Presentations

8:30 - 9:45


Opening comments from Joe Casola, Conference Chair, UW Climate Impacts Group

Welcome from Mayor Marilyn Strickland, Mayor of Tacoma

Blessing from Connie McCloud, Puyallup Tribal Elder


(Morning Keynote)  Sea-level Rise: Dealing With the Expected and Avoiding the Extreme

Richard Alley, Pennsylvania State University



10:00 - 11:30




Climate change: Are the tools available what agricultural professionals need?

Sonia Hall, Washington State University   

Extension around climate change and agriculture has been changing rapidly. Significant emphasis is being placed, currently, on stakeholder engagement resulting in research-practice collaboration and coproduction, and on development of decision support tools that allow stakeholders to explore information and evaluate climate impacts, vulnerabilities, and consequences of alternative actions. In the Pacific Northwest, multiple groups have been testing out approaches to engaging and collaborating with stakeholders, including WISDM (wisdm.wsu.edu), BioEarth (bioearth.wsu.edu), REACCH (www.reacchpna.org), and the Northwest Climate Hub (www.climatehubs.oce.usda.gov/northwest). Similarly, multiple research groups are developing climate visualization and climate change-related decision support tools, including the Climate Engine and AgClimate Atlas (Abatzoglou, University of Idaho), the Climate Visualization Tool (Rajagopalan, Washington State University), AgBiz Logic and AgBiz Climate (Seavert, Oregon State University), the Seedlot Selection Tool (Howe, OSU; St. Clair, US Forest Service; Bachelet, Conservation Biology Institute). Efforts are also being made to discuss resources and relevant science, and to foster communication among researchers and agricultural professionals, such as those occurring through the Agriculture Climate Network (www.agclimate.net). We will share examples of effective stakeholder engagement and outreach from these interdisciplinary projects, highlighting what we have heard from stakeholders through surveys on perspectives on communicating science, and our participation in focus groups and discussions with agricultural professionals.

Lessons learned include (1) input from decision-making stakeholders early in the project is key to informing assumptions, scenarios, and scales of outputs; (2) agricultural professionals need rigorous tools with an easy interface to show implications of changes to different variables "on the fly"; (3) tools must integrate climate change considerations into existing decision support tools; (4) users need guidance on when and how to use each tool, and why to use one rather than the other; and (5) users need rigorous and credible science coupled with highly synthetic products that can convey key information necessary for decision-making effectively. Our intent is to share these lessons, and foster discussion with practitioners and researchers on how decision-support tools are developed, what level of synthesis, guidance, and training is needed, and what agricultural professionals would find most useful in helping producers incorporate climate change considerations into their decisions.


Research Network Approach for Provincial Agriculture Climate Change Adaptation in British Columbia

Jason M. Lussier, BC Agricultural Climate Adaptation Research Network   

Climate change has a complex influence on agriculture systems and a broad range of expertise is often required to support farmer adaptation. Interdisciplinary research networks provide the framework for researchers with various expertise to collaborate and enhance project outcomes. The BC Agricultural Climate Adaptation Research Network (BC-ACARN) is a provincial network in its early stages of development which aims to support climate change adaptation for the agriculture sector in British Columbia, Canada. The network is a partnership between universities, non-government and government organizations and industry groups. Members are specialized in diverse agriculture disciplines related to sciences, economics and policy development. The network is focused on 4 primary objectives: 1) improving the sharing of data, methodologies and results; 2) establishing coordinated research projects; 3) enhancing accessibility to research outcomes; 4) and training future researchers and outreach specialists. In its early stages, the BC-ACARN has fostered preliminary connections between various agricultural climate change adaptation researchers from across the province and is now working to develop provincial scale research projects and research extension programs. The objective of this presentation is to provide an overview of the BC-ACARN with a highlight on some of the early successes and challenges the network has faced. An emphasis will be place on the importance of a network research approach to support agricultural climate change adaptation and the potential for national and international network collaboration.


Making Climate Projections Useful for Growers

Clark Seavert, Oregon State University   

Many producers don’t take advantage of climate change information because the data isn’t in a form that helps them make management decisions or weigh the benefits of changing practices. In this paper we explain a method we have used to make climate projections more useful to growers. Here we present a methodology to measure the agroeconomic implications of climate change using a typical Northwest apple grower to illustrate the process. The first step was to identify appropriate climate variables and thresholds. A survey of apple growers identified accumulated growing degree days and the number of consecutive extremely cold or hot days, as important climate variables that apple growers monitor for indications of yield impacts or recommended alterations of management practices. We then develop downscaled climate data for these variables and worked with climate modelers to create an ensemble of projections for these variables at a 4-km resolution for Wenatchee, a major apple production area in the region. Future climate was simulated under two scenarios of representative concentration pathways (RPC ) for greenhouse gases (GHGs). Namely, RCP4.5, a scenario, representing moderate global efforts to curb GHG emissions, and RCP8.5 , a scenario representing increasing GHGs from 'business-as-usual', projecting out to the 2030s. This information was then incorporated into new decision tools called AgBizClimate and AgBizProfit. AgBizClimate enables growers to see projected climate trends in relation to their crop productivity, while also offering them the option to modify their budgets and management based on climate models and input from grower focus groups. AgBizProfit measures the net present values of future net returns when analyzing adaptation strategies. In our example we look at the impacts of milder winters and an increased AgBizClimate and AgBizProfit allow growers to access climate information specific to their growing region and combine this with data unique to their specific farming operations and examine adaptation strategies. With this combination of information growers can develop management pathways that best fit their operations, and explore the costs and returns of a variety of management options.


Development of a Pacific Northwest Biochar Atlas: Translating the Results of Biochar Studies into Usable Information for Growers

Kristin Trippe, U.S. Department of Agriculture   

The precipitation regime in the Pacific Northwest (PNW) typically creates a winter snowpack that provides a steady stream of summer water that supports agricultural production. As global temperatures rise, the snow pack in the PNW has diminished. Simultaneously, higher temperatures have increased plant water demands. Collectively, these changes in climate and precipitation threaten to create additional drought stress for crops grown in the PNW. Recent research has demonstrated that biochar, a soil amendment derived from the partial combustion of agricultural waste, increases soil moisture and improves soil properties in a way that may help alleviate the effects of drought. Our objective was to evaluate the potential for biochar soil amendments to mitigate drought impacts on agriculture at a regional level by defining the current benefits of biochar amendments. Our study examined the impact of biochar amendments on water dynamics in seven prominent soil types across the PNW. These results were used to develop a web-based Pacific Northwest Biochar Atlas, providing interactive maps that show potential biochar feedstocks, biochar producers, case studies, and calculators that can be used to estimate biochar impacts on moisture retention and select appropriate biochars.

10:00 - 11:30




Applying Social Science to Overcome Communication Challenges

Gwen Shaughnessy, The Baldwin Group   

Do you wonder why people don’t respond to “your message” the way you want them to? Do you want to improve your interactions with a variety of audience members? Come learn why people respond to risk the way they do. Get tips and hear examples about how to better communicate with a variety of audience types. Leave with new resources and some options for where to go for additional help when you get back to your office. New risk communication resources, including a one-day training, a guidebook, and related materials, were developed through a partnership of the NOAA Office for Coastal Management, the Jacques Cousteau National Estuarine Research Reserve, and the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, with contractor Sarah Watson. The goal of these resources is to help municipal staff members more effectively engage residents in conversations about risk and enable them to collectively identify solutions communities can take to minimize risk. See how you can use them to improve your climate communication efforts.


Using story project methods to engage with partners and communicate climate risks

Emily York, Oregon Health Authority   

Stories and qualitative information, when paired with climate science, can help to illustrate issues and reach broader audiences, including decision-makers. The Oregon Climate and Health Program has used a number of story project methods to engage with partners and communicate climate risks. This multi-media session will walk through some of the different methods and feature some of the digital stories recently produced in collaboration with members of the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs. Participants will have a chance to learn from project findings, explore storytelling tools, and discuss how stories could potentially be used to advance their own work. The session will touch on themes of climate justice and how story project methods can be an effective tool for engaging and involving diverse community voices in climate assessment and planning. Illustrating climate science with human stories can be a useful strategy for communicating complex risks, such as impacts to local economies, livelihoods, and community health. Based on climate communications research, these types of risks related to quality of life are often more effective in translating climate science and motivating action.


Teaching Climate Science in Rural Communities

Tamara Neuffer, Stillaguamish Tribe & Chrys Bertolotto, Snohomish County WSU Extension   

Current understanding of climate science by US high school and middle school students is extremely low, at 44% and 40% respectively, and increases in knowledge do not necessarily result in behavior change at commensurate rates (Dewaters and Powers, 2011). Students do not understand basic concepts such as the greenhouse effect, weather versus climate, and anthropogenic sources and steps to reduce global warming (Bodzin and Fu, 2013). 70% of teachers report slight to extreme discomfort in providing climate change instruction (Johnson, 2011). Some barriers to instruction are lack of teacher knowledge, lack of resources and curriculum, fear of or actual push back from administrators, parents and teachers for offering climate science instruction (Colston & Vadjunec 2015; Johnson, 2013; National Academy of Sciences 2012; and Wise 2012). Led by the Stillaguamish Tribe, this project was intended to 1) develop and deliver middle school level climate science curriculum that improves understanding, empathy and action related to climate change and 2) provide teacher training that increases teacher comfort and effectiveness with the topic. Working with Washington State University Extension, project leaders conducted a literature review to inform the selection, creation and / or adaptation of curriculum for use in a rural watershed, conducted both telephone interviews and an online survey with 40 teachers, developed and tested a nine-week climate science curriculum in the Darrington Middle School with 100 students, and hosted a 2.5 day teacher training (July 2017). Results of these efforts were summarized and shared so others can use key findings to increase the understanding, concern about and action towards climate change issues in rural community schools. Results also include common misconceptions and how we addressed them, strategies for teaching a polarizing topic and our approach to integrating the scientific method, and engineering design process into the curriculum for both students and teachers alike. An effective response to climate change requires an informed and literate citizenry. This project is creating practical tools that can be used to support both formal and informal educators who are educating rural youth today. These are the future leaders, voters and stewards that will be facing important decisions regarding the impacts of climate change in their communities.


Let's talk about Climate Change: Creating an app to spark meaningful conversation

Michelle Tigchelaar and Judy Twedt, University of Washington   

Public opinion research, such as the Yale Climate Opinion Maps, shows that more than half of Americans are worried about climate change, yet over 70% of americans rarely or never discuss it with friends or family. At the same time, news reporting on climate is often dense with information and fails to make people feel personally invested in this global issue. This is problematic because preventing and preparing for the growing impacts of global warming will require the personal commitment of many. For these reasons, we have developed an app that aims to foster civil and meaningful conversation about climate change (temporarily hosted at http://climateconversations.tk/). The app draws on a database we constructed of historic climate events and relates these to people’s own lives and experiences. Our database is broad and growing, and includes climate change facts, landmark cases in environmental law, social achievements such as the IPCC earning the Nobel Peace Prize, and the personal account from a 12-year old’s blog post about FEMA relocation after Hurricane Katrina. Events are stated in plain language and accompanied by open-ended questions to spark discussion. The goal of ClimateConversations is not to inform or educate, but to support open-ended conversation, to encourage personal storytelling about climate-related events, and to foster generative dialogue on an issue that all too often causes partisan divide. Here we will discuss the climate science, social science, software, and design considerations that went into developing this app, and share experiences from initial rounds of testing with a variety of audiences.

10:00 - 11:30




Climate impacts assessments for regional governments in southwestern British Columbia using high-resolution statistical downscaling

Trevor Murdock, University of Victoria   

Infrastructure vulnerability assessments and adaptation planning have created demand for detailed information about climate change and extreme events from local and regional governments. While projections from climate models are available to investigate these impacts, they are not always applicable or easily interpreted by local agencies. We discuss the development of high-resolution statistically downscaled dataset and its use in a series of climate impacts assessments for several regional and local governments in southwestern British Columbia. Daily simulations of temperature and precipitation at 10km resolution are first produced using Bias Correction Constructed Analogues with Quantile mapping (BCCAQ). Higher resolution (800m) values are then generated using the Climate-Imprint technique in conjunction with temperature and precipitation climatologies from the Parameter-Elevation Regression on Independent Slopes Model (PRISM). Sets of derived climate parameters tailored to each assessment region are then calculated including seasonal averages, indices of extremes (CLIMDEX) and return periods. We present the performance of these high-resolution simulations compared to observations, and how the simulations have been used in the different climate impacts assessments.


Extreme Precipitation and Snowpack: Model and Observations

Naomi Goldenson, University of Washington   

In the Northwest we depend on snowpack for recreation, and snowmelt for agriculture, drinking water, hydropower, salmon, and ecosystems. Interannual variability in snowpack can be quite large. Superimposed on a warmer climate, what are the risks of extreme years for snowpack in the future? Warmer temperatures alone would yield a decrease in snowpack as less precipitation falls as snow. Changes in precipitation itself are more uncertain, depending on the precipitation phase and antecedent snowpack and soil moisture. We investigate the influence of interannual variability in extreme precipitation on Western snowpack in the historical period in a model and observations. This can potentially explain some of the interannual variance we experience today, as well as inform how snowpack could change if the frequency of extreme precipitation events changes. For the coastal mountain regions of Western North America, most extreme precipitation is associated with large-scale events known of as “atmospheric rivers” or the “Pineapple express” because they originate in the tropics and bring a narrow band of moisture to the Western part of the continent. We use a multi-scale global simulation of the atmosphere and land surface with prescribed historical sea surface temperatures, and finer (30 km) resolution over much of Western North America and the Northeast Pacific - the MPAS (Model for Prediction Across Scales) dynamical core coupled with CAM5 (Community Atmosphere Model - version 5) physics. We have conducted three such simulations that are identical but for perturbed initial conditions over 30 years for the historical period so that we can better characterize the natural variability. MPAS-CAM5 reproduces the broad patterns of observed extreme precipitation well and resolves patterns in mountain snow across latitude and mountain range. We find relationships between extreme precipitation events and seasonal snowpack across season and regions. By using snowpack observations and reanalysis of the atmospheric circulation, we find similar relationships in the historical observations between frequency of atmospheric river events and seasonal snowpack along the West coast of North America. Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and Western Montana (the Northwest U.S.) experience spatial heterogeneity in snowpack response, depending on elevation, and aspect. In the spring a reduced snowpack is associated with years with more atmospheric river events. We discuss the implications for the future by using warmer regions or seasons as analogs, and in light of projections of changes to atmospheric rivers.


Atmospheric Rivers, Climate Change, and the Howard Hanson Dam

Michael Warner, US Army Corps of Engineers   

The Howard Hanson Dam is situated on the Green River, operated by the US Army Corps of Engineers, and provides water to the City of Tacoma and flood protection for the Kent Valley and surrounding areas. The reservoir behind the dam is filled during the spring and early summer months and the water supply comes from springtime precipitation and winter snowmelt. The flood threat is primarily during winter months and is due to extreme precipitation from atmospheric rivers (ARs). ARs are narrow plumes of anomalously high water vapor content originating in the tropics or subtropics and impact the coast, raising freezing levels and distributing heavy rains over the coast and areas inland. The timing of ARs and snowmelt are critical to how the US Army Corps of Engineers operate the dam and there is evidence that climate change could impact the timing of the spring runoff and the seasonality and intensity of atmospheric rivers. The work presented here describes changes in the structure, climatology, and seasonality of cool-season atmospheric rivers influencing the west coast of North America by examining the projections of CMIP5 climate simulations forced by the RCP 8.5 scenario. There are only slight changes in atmospheric river (AR) frequency and seasonality between historical (1970-1999) and future (2070-2099) periods considering the most extreme days (99th percentile) in integrated water vapor transport (IVT) along the West Coast, particularly along the southern part of the U.S. west coast, where some changes in the most extreme events are statistically significant. In contrast, and from an impacts perspective, using the number of future days exceeding the historical 99th percentile IVT threshold produces statistically significant increases in the frequency of extreme IVT events for all winter months. The peak in future AR days appears to occur approximately one month earlier. Ten-model mean historical and end-of-century composites of extreme IVT days reflect canonical AR conditions, with a plume of high IVT extending towards the southwest. The similar structure and evolution associated with ARs in the historical and future periods suggest little change in large-scale structure of such events during the upcoming century. Increases in extreme IVT intensity are primarily associated with integrated water vapor increases accompanying a warming climate. Along the southern portion of the U.S. west coast there is less model agreement regarding the structure and intensity of atmospheric rivers than along the northern portions of the coast.


Increasing Hydrologic Drought Severity in the Northwestern U.S. Mountain Rivers: Causal Influences and Implications for Drought Projections

Charles Luce, US Forest Service   

One of the expected consequences of a warming climate in the snow covered mountains of the western U.S. is an earlier snowmelt runoff pulse, leading to longer recession times through a dry summer and, consequently, lower summer low-flows. Given the historical decline in snowpacks and advancing timing of streamflows in the region, we tested for trends in low flows in free-flowing rivers in the region since the late 1940s, and further examined the degree to which the low flows have been affected by temperature-driven trends in snowmelt timing versus trends driven by precipitation changes that have also been observed in the region. We found statistically significant declines in monthly mean flows in late summer as well as in 7Q10, the annual weekly minimum flow with a 10-year return interval (after correcting for autocorrelation in time series and testing for field significance).

We further examined the relative contribution of temperature driven timing changes versus precipitation trends affecting low flows. While temperature effects are observable, precipitation declines have outweighed the effects of earlier snowmelt on low flows on all rivers so far. The finding is given more weight by contrasting the geography of snowpack sensitivity with basins where drought has become more severe. Given that the region has experienced about 1°C in warming and a 20% decline in mountain precipitation over that period, it is not a surprising finding. An important implication is that water supply and water quality managers cannot interpret historical trends in low-flows as direct analogs for continuing low flow declines related to warming, rather there is a need to explicitly consider uncertainty in future precipitation and local snowpack sensitivity to warming. Related implications relative to drought impacts on forests are discussed.

10:00 - 11:30




Long term persistence of aspen in snowpack-dependent ecosystems

Alec Kretchum, Portland State University   

When viewed across the entirety of the western United States, vegetation patterns can largely be explained by the periodicity of precipitation and the interaction between temperature and precipitation. However, at finer spatial scales, topography and forest community dynamics become increasingly important determinants of how vegetation is distributed. Quaking aspen (Populus tremuloides) is the most widespread tree species in North America, and in southwestern Idaho, aspen are partially dependent on seasonal snowdrifts that accumulate based on topographic effects and wind patterns. A year or two of extremely low snow accumulation and high temperatures can cause high levels of tree mortality and make affected stands more susceptible to future drought. In addition to climatic effects, conifer encroachment on aspen can increase competitive pressure on aspen regenerative success. We evaluated the long-term future consequences of changing climate and conifer competition on quaking aspen in Reynolds Creek, a small well-instrumented watershed in southwest Idaho. To address the influence of site-level climate, we modeled succession and competition over an 85 year future period. Six different RCP8.5 global circulation models were used to create an ensemble climate change scenario under which we examined aspen regeneration, conifer competition, and climate-related tree mortality. We found that anticipated reductions in snowpack depth and related increases in climatic water deficit (CWD) had significant negative effects on aspen’s ability to persist at a specific site long-term. Overall, aspen were able to persist on 50% of currently occupied sites over the course of the 85-year model scenarios. Long term, area occupied by aspen differed greatly by climate and emissions scenario, while douglas fir decreased in area occupied under all future climates. Aspen probability of establishment decreased by an ensemble average of ~80% on snowpack-dependent sites. Climate-linked mortality events increased in frequency over all climate scenarios, and under the most severe emissions scenario resulted in complete extirpation from many previously-occupied sites. Our research suggests that the length of individual drought periods is the most important determinants of long-term persistence of aspen. It is possible that future aspen mortality in this area may be a climate niche adjustment, i.e. a repayment of what Dullinger describes as the ‘extinction debt’ of trees that live on the margins of their currently suitable range.


The Connection Between Climate and Declining Forest Health in the Western United States

David Bell, USDA Forest Service PNW Research Station   

Climate is having profound impacts on forest health in the western United States. In particular, an increasingly common occurrence of hotter droughts over the past several decades has caused advanced physiological stress, setting the stage for widespread mortality due to insects, disease, and related factors. Following earlier work with Landsat time series, we collected a large sample (tens of thousands) of time series observations across western forests using a probability design. This dataset allows for annual estimates (with uncertainties) of percent forest undergoing declines in health across the region going back to 1985. We then link these observations to climate data using stochastic antecedent modeling to discover the length, temporal pattern, and strength of drought effects on patterns of forest decline. Preliminary analyses indicate dramatic increases in forest decline across the full region beginning in the mid-1990s, with longevity of the decline signal varying by sub-region. Winter vapor pressure deficits and seasonal precipitation patterns up to three years in the past appear to influence the strength of the decline signal. Using the relationship between climate and decline we project forward to 2100 the anticipated location and timing of forest decline across the region based on different IPCC representative concentration pathways.


Refugia from drought and mountain pine beetle in a whitebark and lodgepole pine ecosystem

Jennifer Cartwright, U.S. Geological Survey   

Drought and insect outbreaks are two primary disturbance processes linking climate change to tree mortality in western North America. Climate change refugia are landscape locations that may be buffered against ecological effects of climate change and thus may be priorities for conservation, monitoring, and restoration. The purpose of this study was to identify refugia from drought and insect disturbance using remotely sensed vegetation characteristics and to model the landscape controls (topographic, soil, and forest characteristics) on refugia locations. Refugia were identified during a multi-year drought (2007-2010) that coincided with a severe outbreak of mountain pine beetle in lodgepole and whitebark pine forests in the Gearhart Mountain Wilderness in southern Oregon, using a simple anomaly-based approach and time-series values of Normalized Difference Moisture Index (NDMI). Boosted regression tree models indicated that refugia occurred preferentially on steep, topographically shaded slopes with low stand density in both lodgepole pine and whitebark pine stands. However, there were notable interspecies differences in the kinds of landforms that supported refugia. For lodgepole pine, refugia were more probable along high-elevation ridges with low soil bulk density. For whitebark pine, refugia were more probable in lower elevation areas of topographic convergence, such as coves and valleys associated with headwater streams. These results suggest that a variety of physical and biological processes interact to create refugia from drought and mountain pine beetle, and that the relative importance of these processes may differ across forest species. In particular, spatial patterns in evapotranspiration, snowmelt dynamics, soil water storage, and drought-tolerance abilities in lodgepole and whitebark pine stands may have helped create refugia from water stress and insect damage. Identification of the landforms and forest characteristics supporting refugia from drought and insect disturbance can help forest managers target conservation resources in an era of climate-change exacerbation of these disturbances.


Mechanistic modeling of bark beetle outbreaks to assess the influences of climate change

Jeffrey A. Hicke, University of Idaho   

Bark beetles have killed billions of trees in western North America in recent decades. Climate has influenced these outbreaks through warming and drought, and future climate change is expected to continue to be favorable for these insects in the future. Here we describe a prognostic model of mountain pine beetle outbreaks in lodgepole pine forests designed for use across the western US and over centuries. The model tracks beetle populations from eggs through egg-laying adults, and includes the major mechanisms affecting outbreaks, including climate, stand structure, and dispersal. The model is designed for simulations at the scale of an individual forest stand, in this case, a 1-km grid cell. We have developed the model and evaluated dynamics using a simplified stand growth model together with observed and synthetic climate time series. Simulations result in the expected responses of beetle populations and forest carbon to climate and stand conditions based on theory. Regionally, recent climate change has created conditions that lead to substantially more outbreaks than for runs without warming. In this talk we will describe the modeling structure, stand-level simulations, and regional simulations that include the effects of climate change.

12:30 - 2:00




Climate Atlas - Mapping Climate Impacts on Vulnerable Populations in Seattle

Christopher Wierzbicki, Futurewise   

Climate change will not impact everyone in the same way – even within the same city. In Seattle, climate change will present new challenges, such as sea level rise, but will also act as a stressor that will exacerbate existing inequalities between communities, and potentially set back efforts to remedy them. It is important to recognize who in Seattle will feel not only the direct, but also indirect impacts of climate change, and how they will feel them, to continue advancing equity across the city. The Climate Atlas explores a set of climate change topics that are expected to impact life in Seattle in the future. Each topic is briefly summarized, key points are highlighted using infographic diagrams, and a map showing the spatial “overlap” between Seattle’s historically marginalized communities and the expected impact areas is presented. Taken together, these elements are intended to provide a jumping-off point for policy development and discussion.


Stay Safe in the Heat: Research and Response in Seattle's International District and Rainier Valley Neighborhoods

Robin Pfohman, Seattle and King County Public Health   

In the fall of 2015, Public Health – Seattle & King County partnered with Puget Sound Clean Air Agency and the City of Seattle’s Office of Sustainability and the Environment on a City of Seattle research project related to extreme heat and air quality in two culturally diverse Seattle neighborhoods: Rainier Beach and the International District, Both neighborhoods are home to a large proportion of low-income residents and communities of color, who we knew to be disproportionately vulnerable to extreme heat events due to the impacts of racism and classism. In August and September, staff from local community-based organizations and community leaders were interviewed by the project team and residents from each neighborhood participated in a scenario-based workshop in order for the project team to better understand existing social networks, assets within the communities, and strategies used for dealing with extreme heat. Using lessons learned from this pilot, Public Health worked with University of Washington’s Center for Health and the Global Environment to develop and test a comic zine that addressed issues and concerns articulate through the research process and also described coping strategies articulated by residents. The comic zine represents the demographics of the people participating in the project. Through the partnership with the University of Washington, the comic zine is being evaluated with community partners, including the Vietnamese Senior Association and the Somali Health Board.

What the audience will take away from this presentation: 1. Participants will hear about the issues, challenges and coping mechanisms used by residents in two diverse Seattle neighborhoods 2. Participants will learn about how one local health department is leveraging partnerships to expand staffs ability to address climate change impacts in absences of funding 3. Participants will become familiar with comic zine and their effectiveness in communicating climate related health hazards to diverse communities.


Managed Retreat as a Strategy for Climate Change Adaptation in Small Communities: Public Health Implications

Andrew L. Dannenberg, University of Washington   

In coming decades, sea level rise associated with climate change is likely to make some communities uninhabitable. Managed retreat, or planned relocation, is a proactive response prior to catastrophic necessity. Managed retreat has disruptive health, social, cultural, and economic impacts on communities that relocate. For example: (a) Kivalina, an Alaskan Native island community of 400, needs to relocate due to repeated flooding, erosion, and failed shoreline stabilization. Relocation has been stymied by lack of a designated responsible government agency, funding, and agreement on where to move. (b) Taholah, Washington, a Native American coastal community of 700, received a federal relocation planning grant after repeated flooding and road washouts. The new village on higher ground nearby is being designed with community input to include best practices for resilience, walkability, energy efficiency, and stormwater management. (c) Isle de Jean Charles, Louisiana, a Native American coastal community of 175, received $48 million in federal relocation funds in 2016 following repeated flooding and soil subsidence. Progress in relocation has been slowed by a strong sense of place attachment, lack of community consensus on whether and where to move, lack of job opportunities, and distrust of government. (d) Vunidogoloa, Fiji, a small island village, moved two kilometers inland in 2014. Factors contributing to its successful relocation included public involvement in decisions, use of government and community resources, availability of suitable land nearby, and assistance in adjusting agriculture and fishing livelihoods. Relocation affects health and well-being at both the individual and community levels. Issues include identifying suitable new locations; providing suitable housing; assuring food security; assuring continuing health care, mental health services, and social services; maintaining social ties and community identity; providing infrastructure such as energy, water, and waste management; accommodating potential population growth; and avoiding new disease risks.

Other issues bear indirectly on health, including protecting livelihoods; governance and decision-making associated with relocation; equitable use of available resources; and acceptance by and integration into the receiving community if applicable. With advancing climate change—rising sea levels, more severe hurricanes, reduced groundwater, extreme heat, drought, and other threats—the need for managed retreat as an adaptation strategy will grow. Experience from the health sector may be relevant, such as cost-benefit analysis, development of cost thresholds, and application of the clinical palliative care framework to ease grieving and loss. Lessons learned from moving small communities may inform the challenges of relocating larger cities affected by climate change.


Enjoining Warming: Using the Law to Mitigate Climate Change

Sean Munger, Rose Law Firm   

We’re all familiar with climate change as an environmental issue and a policy issue, but increasingly climate change is becoming a legal issue—both inside and outside the courtroom. Not only are climate and climate-related risks cropping up more and more often in everyday legal matters, from property law to insurance and even securities and financial transactions, but organizations, municipalities, businesses and private citizens are reaching with increasing frequency for legal tools and remedies to deal with climate change and its related problems. Indeed, as the limitations of governmental policy approaches to combating climate change become more evident, long-settled law and legal processes have the potential to step in to fill the gaps where climate policy and policymakers can’t—or won’t—act.Does climate change violate fundamental constitutional or human rights? If so, how can these violations be addressed, and what do the remedies look like? Do court orders and judicial decisions have the potential to craft a broad societal-level response to climate change? What are the implications of the Washington state court decision that found a right to a stable climate in Washington’s constitution? Might there be a similar right in the U.S. Constitution? Are companies or governments financially liable for contributing to climate change, or for acting too slowly to try to stop it? Do private companies now have, or will they soon have, a legal obligation to consider climate change in making ordinary business decisions? Do lawyers violate ethical obligations if they ignore climate change issues in advising their clients? This presentation will address these questions, and will also explain why their answers should be of vital importance to climate change researchers and activists seeking to advance adaptation and mitigation projects.The Pacific Northwest is on the cutting edge of climate change law—making it, interpreting it and marshaling existing legal processes as tools to mitigate and adapt to a climate-changed environment. As we communicate the risks and urgency of climate change across disciplines and organizational boundaries, the power of the law as a tool to shape climate change solutions must be considered and discussed. This presentation will seek to open that cross-disciplinary conversation.

12:30 - 2:00




Flood Risk Management in Washington State: How can we make it more resilient?

Haley Kennard, University of Washington   

Climate change is projected to exacerbate existing challenges associated with flooding. Flood management decisions made today will have implications for flood risk extending well into the 21st century, and beyond. This means that communities and agencies need to plan for the impacts of climate change now in order to ensure that public resources are used effectively and that local communities are prepared to deal with increasing flood risk associated with a changing climate. Due to the complex multi-stakeholder nature of flood risk management, coordination is essential. The Washington State Silver Jackets (WA SJ), is an inter-agency group aimed at coordinating among flood risk management agencies: FEMA, Army Corps, USGS, National Weather Service, and the Washington State Departments of Ecology, Transportation, and Emergency Management Division. Through a series of in-depth interviews with WA SJ members, this study explored ways to better integrate climate change information into flood risk management, with the goal of documenting current practices and identifying opportunities to further integrate climate change in their work. We also evaluated barriers to the use and integration of climate change information in flood risk management, focusing both on technical and research gaps as well as institutional, political, and social barriers. Based on our findings, we developed a climate resilience and flood risk management workplan focused on the following five themes: (1) Improved projections of future flood impacts, (2) Resources to support local planners, (3) Improved coordination among agencies, scientists, and local floodplain managers, (4) Improved public engagement, and (5) Streamlined planning processes. Specific workplan actions were prioritized by the WA SJ team at a workshop in early June 2017 where participants identified 3 near-term priorities for their work: updates to the precipitation atlas used in engineering design, the development of improved inter-agency outreach materials, and the creation of a comprehensive climate and flood risk planning checklist. The WA SJ team is already taking action to fund and begin work on these priorities and the workplan is intended to continue to serve as a roadmap for ongoing collaboration on climate-resilient flood risk management.


Integrating climate change considerations into public works project planning and design in Snohomish County

Andrea Martin Cascadia Consulting. Manuela Winter, Snohomish County Public Works   

Snohomish County Public Works recently customized and deployed a Climate Impacts Decision Support Tool to facilitate systematic integration of climate change considerations into public works project design, siting, planning, and implementation. The department began exploring options to integrate climate change into its activities in 2010, and committed funding towards customizing a decision-support tool in 2015. Released for staff use in 2017, the pilot tool streamlines climate impact projections such as sea level rise, precipitation, and temperature change across various timescales so that County staff can easily and quickly understand, prepare for, and respond to climate-related risks.

The current pilot version focuses on three sectors: 1) transportation planning, 2) habitat restoration, and 3) surface water infrastructure, and was designed with future expansion and customization in mind. Customization and deployment of the tool required working closely with County GIS, sustainability, and planning and engineering staff to populate the software with relevant content, conduct beta testing to optimize the tool’s usefulness, and perform a rollout training for leadership and project staff. The County also tested the software on four project case studies, and is currently being applied to at least six additional Public Works projects. In this presentation, we will reflect on the journey Snohomish County Public Works has taken to incorporate climate change considerations into its infrastructure projects, including challenges, successes, lessons learned, and next steps.


Increasing Resilience for Washington State Contaminated Sites - Conducting a vulnerability assessment and development of an adaptation strategy

Scott O’Dowd, Washington Department of Ecology   

Introduction: This presentation will include a summary of the Department of Ecology’s Toxics Cleanup Program’s vulnerability analysis and adaptation strategy to increase the resilience of the state’s contaminated sites. These include contaminated soil, groundwater, and sediment sites, failed landfills, as well as active underground storage tanks (i.e., gas stations). Our ability to improve the resilience of cleanup remedies to respond to the impacts associated with climate change is important to:

  • Protect human health and the environment,
  • Ensure that cleaned up sites are effective over the long-term, and
  • Protect the significant financial and resource investment required to conduct cleanup.

Ecology conducted a vulnerabilities analysis of the state’s ~11,000 contaminated sites to understand the effects of impacts associated with climate change, specifically:

  • The types of impacts that have the highest potential to compromise contaminated sites, and
  • Which sites and specific aspects of cleanup remedies were most vulnerable.

We then developed an adaptation strategy aimed at increasing the resilience of cleanup remedies that includes:

  • Guidance on how to increase remedy resilience, with recommendations for Ecology site managers, state and federal agencies, and other stakeholders to implement during each phase of the cleanup process.
  • A web-based interactive GIS tool to locate vulnerable cleanup sites and understand the potential threats to implement the adaptation strategy.

Methods: We used data from the IPCC, University of Washington, and state and federal agencies to identify the major impacts associated with climate change that can directly affect the resilience of cleanup remedies. They include:

  • Sea level rise
  • Flooding
  • Landslide
  • Wildfire

This information was used for the vulnerabilities analysis and adaptation strategy, specifically to

  • Develop a GIS tool and threat scenarios to determine which of the above impacts posed the highest threat to the state’s contaminated sites,
  • Understand what sites in specific geographic areas were most vulnerable, and
  • Determine criteria to help cleanup site managers increase resilience of clean up sites at different phases of the process (site investigations, selection of the cleanup remedy, and long-term monitoring).

Results and Conclusions. A final report documenting these vulnerabilities assessment results and adaptation strategy is expected in fall 2017. Among the cleanup sites that had the greatest vulnerability to these impacts, sea level rise poses the greatest threat to sediment sites and upland cleanup sites near marine and tidally influenced waterbodies, followed by flooding, wildfire, and landslide for upland sites located further inland.


Building coastal resilience in the Pacific Northwest: Comparing co-produced coastal adaptation strategies in Tillamook County, OR and Grays Harbor County, WA

Janan Evans-Wilent, OSU   

Coastal communities throughout the US West Coast and elsewhere are facing the daunting task of preparing for climate change impacts, particularly the hazards from increased flooding and erosion. With sea-level rise, changing storminess patterns, and possible changes to the frequency and severity of major El Niño events, communities are already implementing emergency responses in order to protect infrastructure, beach access, and property. Recent studies show that despite the vast information available on coastal hazards and expected risks, few coastal adaptation plans with long-term climate change planning have been successfully implemented. Most likely, this lack of implementation is due to a disconnect between scientists and decision-makers; despite the availability of relevant science and tools, local decision-makers are burdened by not only deciphering the scientific information but also executing complex and costly coastal adaptation strategies without clear quantitative analysis at a regional level. In this project we aim to bridge the gap between the dire need for proactive coastal planning, and the lack of tools available to quantitatively explore the tradeoffs of different adaptation strategies. We utilize a two-pronged approach by combining deep stakeholder engagement through co-production with ‘Knowledge-to-Action Networks’, and alternative futures modeling via Envision, a multi agent-based framework for policy assessment and alternative futuring. With Envision we can project future climate change and policy scenarios and allow local stakeholders to understand and visualize how policy decisions may affect coastal vulnerability at a local level. In this study, we compare this approach for Tillamook County, OR, and Grays Harbor County, WA, two regions of the Pacific Northwest that have experienced very different coastal evolution over the past few decades and therefore have significantly different coastal flooding and erosion hazards. We examine the different policy scenarios (e.g. implementing hard or soft coastal protection), and analyze important stakeholder-selected metrics (e.g. the number of buildings impacted by flooding, or the cost of building and maintaining riprap revetments), to evaluate which trade-offs are most important across study locations. We also develop a framework of recommended policy-scenarios for other coastal communities in the Pacific Northwest, and explore the scalability of this collaborate approach to other coastal communities.

12:30 - 2:00




New Snow Metrics for Decision Support

Anne Nolin, Oregon State University   

Changing snowpack affects multiple sectors from water, energy, and forest management, to agriculture, to transportation planning to winter tourism. We have developed multiple new metrics for characterizing changing snowpacks to support the goals and needs of scientists and stakeholders. These snow metrics include snow cover frequency (SCF), snow disappearance date (SDD), snow cover duration (SCD), the ratio of snow water equivalent to total winter precipitation (SWE:P), snowstorm temperature, the frequency of warm winters, and “at-risk” snow. We use a novel combination of remote sensing, station-based measurements, and modeling data to look at past trends and to simulation future changes. We have developed an interactive web-based geovisualization tool using Google Earth Engine that allows users to explore spatial and temporal snowcover patterns from 2000—present and to export the data in non-proprietary data formats. We have also linked the SCF metric to a streamflow forecast model that can be used in watersheds will little or no ancillary data. Here, we demonstrate the utility of these products for analyzing seasonal and year-to-year snowpack variations and streamflow forecasting in the Pacific Northwest.


Impacts of glacier recession on Pacific Northwest water resources

Erin Whorton, U.S. Geological Survey   

Melting glaciers are one of the most visible and cited symbols of climate change. Much like lakes or snow, glaciers serve as frozen reservoirs of water that deliver cold meltwater to rivers following seasonal snowmelt. Changes in the amount and timing of glacier runoff into rivers affects a diverse suite of fundamental water availability issues ranging from electricity generation, irrigation support for agriculture, to stream ecosystem health for iconic Pacific Northwest species like salmon. Understanding the importance of glaciers, the USGS initiated a research program in the 1950’s, to measure glacier health at four key glaciers in Washington, Alaska, and Montana. The ultimate goal was to measure glacier mass balance across principal North American climate zones. These records are amongst the longest running in North America, and provide a critical perspective on the climate influence throughout the region through quantification of glacier surface mass balance, area, and volume change. We present preliminary results from several ongoing projects aimed at addressing the impacts of reduced glacier extent on Pacific Northwest water resources. First, we present the re-analyzed 60 year South Cascade glacier mass balance record constrained with a geodetic mass balance time-series. The glacier’s geodetic mass balance was calculated by differencing digital elevation models (DEMs) over ten year periods from 1958 to 2016. These high resolution DEMs were created using Structure from Motion photogrammetry techniques from historical and modern aerial photographs, and WorldView commercial satellite imagery. From 1958 to 2015, South Cascade glacier has lost 38.5 m.w.e of ice. Second, we discuss results to quantify 60 years of glacier mass loss for all 1200 active glaciers in the Conterminous US (CONUS glaciers) using automated, open-source algorithms to derive high resolution DEMs from WorldView imagery. Third, we will present ongoing efforts to quantify the effect committed mountain glacier retreat in the Cascade Mountains will have on water availability, and how reduced cold meltwater input will affect stream temperatures under future climate conditions. Hopefully, these project results will help identify cold-water refugio where sensitive aquatic species could survive in a warming climate. Potentially these data can provide land managers with locations where habitat preservation efforts and limited funds can be focused to deliver the most tangible benefits.


Understanding climate impacts on the rate and extent of glacier loss in the Olympic Mountains

Justin Pflug, University of Washington   

In the Olympic Mountains of Washington, USA, the winter of 2015 was over 2°C warmer than average, and the snowpack was the lowest ever recorded (~4% of average).The summer of 2015 between June 15th and September 1st was 2.6°C warmer than average, and this, combined with the lack of seasonal snow, led to record losses of glacial ice elevation (~10 meters in many locations). This period was representative of future climate change projections and provided the ability to hypothesize the rate at which glacier decline will continue in the future. Manual snow and ice measurements, NAIP imagery, World View imagery, and repeat LiDAR flights were used to measure the extent and mass-balance for 30 of the most prominent glaciers over the past eight years with downstream watershed effects visualized by the Distributed Hydrology Soil Vegetation Model and additional empirical models.


Accelerated Snow and Glacier Melt in Washington State from Black Carbon Deposition

Susan Kaspari, Central Washington University   

Black carbon (BC, commonly referred to as soot) is a particle formed from the incomplete combustion of fossil and bio fuels. When deposited on snow and glacier surfaces, BC causes darkening of the snow/ice surface, leading to increased energy absorption and accelerated melt. Since 2009 we have been measuring BC concentrations in the seasonal snowpack and in ice cores retrieved from mountain glaciers in Washington State. An ice core from the South Cascade Glacier spanning 1870-1991 indicates that BC concentrations were 25-fold higher during peak industrialization relative to background levels, with the highest BC concentrations likely from wildfires. The highest BC concentrations deposited on the seasonal snowpack are found in the post-wildfire environment, where charred trees provide a source of BC that is deposited on the snowpack for years following a wildfire. We documented that BC deposition is highest in high burn severity areas, and decreases over time as snags (dead standing trees) deteriorate. The snowpack in the region of the 2012 Table Mountain fire in Central Washington melts out 48 days earlier post-fire relative to pre-fire, which is associated with BC and woody debris deposition, and changes in the forest canopy. These findings have important implications for water resources in Washington State, as the snowpack is projected to continue to decline and the area burned by wildfire is projected to increase.

12:30 - 2:00




Connecting today’s climates to future analogs to facilitate species movement under climate change

Caitlin Littlefield, University of Washington   

Increasing connectivity is an important strategy for facilitating species range shifts and maintaining biodiversity in the face of climate change. To date, however, few studies have included future climate projections in efforts to prioritize areas for increasing connectivity. Here, we identify key areas likely to facilitate climate-induced species movement across western North America. Using historical climate datasets and future climate projections, we mapped potential routes between current climates and their future analogs using a novel moving-window analysis based on electrical circuit theory. In addition to tracing shifting climates, the approach accounts for landscape permeability and empirically-derived species dispersal capacities. We compared connectivity maps generated with our climate-change informed approach to maps of connectivity based solely upon the degree of human modification of the landscape. We show that including future climate projections in connectivity models substantially shifts and constrains priority areas for movement to a smaller proportion of the landscape than when climate projections are not considered. Predicted movement decreases in all ecoregions when climate projections are included, particularly when dispersal capacities are highly constrained, making climate analogs inaccessible. In addition, many areas emerge as important for connectivity only when climate change is modeled in two time steps rather than in a single time step. Our results illustrate that movement routes needed to track changing climatic conditions may differ from those that connect present-day landscapes. Incorporating future climate projections into connectivity modeling is important for conservation planners to understanding how to best facilitate successful species movement and persistence of biodiversity in a changing climate.


The Northwest as a hotbed of innovation in conserving climate-connectivity - the ability of landscapes to accommodate species range shifts

Meade Krosby, University of Washington   

As global temperatures rise, many species are responding by adjusting their ranges to track shifting areas of climatic suitability. For this reason, enhancing ecological connectivity – the ability of landscapes to facilitate movement of the organisms within them – is the most frequently cited climate adaptation strategy for biodiversity conservation, and a key component of many regional and national adaptation plans. Although a wide range of methods exists for modeling connectivity under static climates, climate change creates a pressing need for new analytical approaches for modeling climate connectivity – the ability of landscapes to accommodate species range shifts in response to climate change. Indeed, climate-connectivity models aimed at identifying corridors for climate-induced range shifts have proliferated in recent years. These approaches vary widely, from what they target (e.g., species, biomes, or enduring features), to whether and how they incorporate future climate projections. The Northwest has been a hotbed of innovation for such work. We review and synthesize climate-connectivity modeling approaches – highlighting specific examples from the Northwest, from science to implementation – in an effort to clarify the state of this rapidly evolving field, stimulate further innovation, and support informed implementation of climate-connectivity enhancement as a key adaptation strategy for biodiversity conservation under a changing climate.


Can We Conserve Wetlands Under a Changing Climate? Mapping Wetland Hydrology Across and Ecoregion and Developing Climate Adaptation Recommendations

Meghan Halabisky, University of Washington   

Depressional wetlands in the Columbia Plateau are valuable habitats because they maintain surface water into or throughout the dry summers. The source of that moisture—surface runoff from surrounding areas, or groundwater in local aquifers—may determine if these wetlands are seasonal, permanent, or semi-permanent. Helping these wetlands continue to provide habitat and other services requires understanding how these flooding and drying patterns (their hydrology) have changed in the past, and how projected changes in climate might affect them. The goal of this project was to develop wall-to-wall maps of wetlands across the region, coupled with detailed 30-year hydrographs of historical (1984-2014) fluctuations in water extent for each wetland, and similar 30-year hydrographs for fluctuations expected under future (2070-2099) climate. We developed these products using Landsat satellite images to map surface water extent of wetlands. We then combined these data with VIC, a hydrological model that calculates soil moisture metrics given particular climate data. We quantified the relationships between surface water extent and the VIC metrics produced using historical climate information. We then applied these relationships to soil moisture metrics obtained by running VIC using projected future climate, which allowed us to make projections of expected water extent under end-of-the-century climate. Our findings suggest that wetlands in the Columbia Plateau will respond differently across the region. Groundwater driven wetlands, which tend to be more permanently flooded, may see increases in water levels and dry less frequently. Surface water driven wetlands, which tend to be more seasonally flooded, may see decrease in surface water levels, dry more frequently, and dry earlier in the season. We worked with wetland practitioners to interpret the results, and to use them as part of a framework for evaluating whether current management actions could ameliorate expected climate change impacts.


How Do Trees Know When to Stop Growing?

Connie Harrington, U.S. Forest Service   

Trees have evolved to use environmental cues to ensure that growth is happening during the time period when growing conditions are likely to be favorable and to avoid growing when events such as heavy frosts are likely to occur. However, if climatic conditions change, will trees still be able to grow at the right times? We monitored Douglas-fir seedlings and saplings at several field sites in western Washington and Oregon for multiple years using electronic dendrometers to determine when growth starts and stops each year. Under most circumstances diameter growth stops in the fall and is triggered by declining day length and cool temperatures. Warmer conditions in the fall can extend the length of the growing season in currently cool environments (higher latitudes and elevations) as temperature is often the limiting factor. However, in currently warm environments in the southern part of the species’ range, the timing of diameter growth may not change much under warming climate predictions as day length is the limiting factor. The summer heat wave of 2015 resulted in diameter growth stopping several months earlier than usual. This required we develop a separate model; that is, we recognized that a tipping point had occured. Under current climate conditions our model predicts that diameter growth may cease during the summer (as opposed to fall) in virtually none of the range of Douglas-fir but in the future diameter growth could cease during the summer over a substantial portion of its current range. If diameter growth stops early in the season, overall wood production will be reduced and trees may be less drought resistent as they produce less latewood. The competitive ability of Douglas-fir compared to other tree species could shift in portions of its range based on differential species’ responses to changes in future climate.

2:30 - 4:00


Technical tools for improving sea level rise risk assessment in Washington State

Moderator: Ian Miller, Washington Sea Grant   

Guillaume Mauger, Climate Impacts Group
Eric Grossman, US Geological Survey
Zhaoging Yang, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory
Ray Weldon, University of Oregon
Tyler Newton, University of Oregon
Taiping Wang, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory
Harriet Morgan, UW Climate Impacts Group
Nathan Van Arendonk, Western Washington University
Mark Welch, University of Washington
David Schmidt, University of Washington

This session describes progress to date to develop technical tools and information on sea level change, storm surges, wave impacts and vertical land motion that will be incorporated into an updated sea level rise assessment for Washington State. The work is conducted as part of a NOAA-funded Washington Coastal Resilience Project (WCRP) with additional support from EPA’s National Estuarine Program, USGS and others. With a few notable exceptions (i.e. Swinomish Tribe, King County, etc.), planning for sea level rise at community-scales is nascent in Washington State, despite a history of regional sea level rise assessments dating back to 2008 (i.e. Mote and others, 2008). A variety of issues may be at play, including; 1) Sea level rise science and assessment information is not accessible (i.e. Mooney, 2014), 2) uncertainties are poorly described or characterized, or 3) the information included in assessments is not of adequate resolution and/or is not at appropriate scales for community planning. In order to address these issues and to advance planning for sea level rise in Washington State, the WCRP is developing an updated sea level rise assessment for Washington State that incorporates recently-developed probabilistic sea level rise models, accounts for variations in vertical land movement across Washington State, and improves the assessment of interactions between sea level change, storm surge, waves and other processes that drive extreme coastal events. The proposed session will synthesize our efforts to develop a probabilistic sea level rise model for Washington State, assess coastal vertical land motion, and advance our understanding and improve modelling of storm surges and wave impacts in the enclosed Salish Sea and on the outer coast of Washington. While an emphasis will be placed on the technical aspects of assessing changing risk, we will also touch on how our results can be effectively communicated and incorporated into resilience planning.


Developing Climate-smart Strategies to Conserve Species and Habitats through Vulnerability Assessments

Moderator: Lisa DeBruyckere, Columbia Basin Partner Forum   

Jill Hardiman, US Geological Survey
Tom Iverson, Yakama Nation Fisheries
Scott Hauser, Upper Snake River Tribes Foundation
Sean Finn, Great Northern Landscape Conservation Cooperative

Ameliorating the impacts of climate change to species and habitats in the Pacific Northwest requires an articulation of key existing and projected vulnerability stressors. Projected changes in precipitation, air and water temperature, invasive species, seasons and phenology, soil moisture, plant community composition and structure, and other key stressors have the potential to have profound impacts on native fish and wildlife populations and their habitats. A comprehensive understanding of systemic and species-specific vulnerabilities positions natural resource managers to characterize the range of threats, from most to least significant, and develop corresponding sets of strategies and actions to maintain ecosystem resilience and facilitate adaptation to future conditions. The Columbia Basin Partner Forum, Upper Snake River Tribes, Yakama Nation and Great Northern Landscape Conservation Cooperative are working with partners throughout the interior Columbia River Basin to synthesize a series of vulnerability assessments for priority species and habitats and develop parallel, integrated decision support frameworks that guide and coordinate species and system-level resource management approaches and actions. The frameworks have a common structure enabling a consistent, collaborative approach to landscape-scale, climate-smart conservation planning and implementation. The frameworks summarize knowledge of current status and key projected climate impacts and stressors on a range of species and ecosystems through 2050. Strategies, drawn from an array of existing management plans, are presented as menus of options managers might consider given local manifestations of climate and climate-related impacts to focal conservation targets. This session describes the collective efforts of partners in the region to address climate change impacts through the coordinated application of species and habitat vulnerability assessments to management decision contexts. Conference attendees will benefit from learning about a structured approach to transfer knowledge gained from vulnerability assessments, traditional ecological knowledge, expert scientific opinion and emerging science to multi-jurisdictional conservation decision making.


Use of meteorological data to strengthen public health surveillance of risk and disease, response and prevention

Moderator: Marnie Boardman, Washington State Department of Health   

Jerry Borchert, Washington State Department of Health
Edward Kasner, University of Washington / Washington State Dept. of Health
Hanna Oltean, Washington State Department of Health
Elizabeth Dykstra, Washington State Department of Health

Climate change will amplify existing health problems and introduce new ones. For some health conditions, weather patterns can mediate or moderate risk of environmental exposures and incidence of illness. As climate change introduces shifts in weather patterns, routine consideration of short term, seasonal and longer term forecasts could aid public health practitioners in better projecting and preventing health risks. In this special session, presenters will discuss ways in which meteorological data, weather forecasts and climate models are informing public health practice at the Washington State Department of Health. Panelist Jerry Borchert will discuss the use of predictive models and toxin monitoring data to create a Pacific Northwest Harmful Algal Bloom (HAB) bulletin. The presentation will illustrate ways in which HAB forecasts have been used to better ensure seafood safety, and how applied use of predictive models like the University of Washington’s LiveOcean Model will help tackle issues such as hypoxia and ocean acidification. Panelist Edward Kasner will explore the use of meteorological data in the context of pesticide illness surveillance and epidemiological investigation in Washington. New approaches are needed to understand pesticide drift exposure mechanisms, particularly in orchard regions. He will highlight findings from a project to link data from the Pesticide Illness Monitoring System (PIMS) with historic weather data to characterize pesticide drift events between 2000 and 2015, noting challenges and opportunities to use meteorological data to enhance case investigation, public health response and future risk prevention. Panelists Elizabeth Dykstra and Hanna Oltean will provide an overview from the literature regarding weather and climate factors influencing the complex and dynamic landscape of vector ecology and vector borne disease. They will then discuss observations in the seasonality of vector monitoring and disease in Washington, with a focus on culex tarsalis and culex pipiens, the mosquitos that carry West Nile Virus, and how these observations can inform planning for public health operations. Finally, they will point to possible directions for enhancing use of meteorological data and modeling in monitoring and reducing risk of vector borne disease in the region. Following the presentations, the audience and panelists will be invited to consider how meteorological data could be used more widely in the context of public health surveillance and response, exploring practical applications of and barriers to such uses. We hope the discussion will reveal opportunities for novel partnerships between public health agencies and other sectors.


Communicating About Climate Change with Clarity & Impact: a hands-on opportunity to enhance your climate communications

Moderator: Heidi A. Roop, University of Washington Climate Impacts Group   

Kavita Heyn, Portland Water Bureau
Jamie Stroble, King County

The objectives of this 1.5-hour interactive session are to (1) provide Northwest climate scientists and resource managers with an opportunity to explore the challenges of communicating about climate change to different audiences, and (2) expand our community of practice for science communication across the region. This proposed session will explore the cross-cutting issue of effective science communication at a time when the need for thoughtful dialogue about climate change science, impacts and solutions is more important than ever.The session will highlight the importance of knowing and connecting with your audience, and offer concrete ways to engage with diverse audiences and target your messaging. Three presentations, offered from the perspectives of academia, resource management and local government, will explore the landscape of communication efforts across the Northwest and discuss the successes and challenges of climate change communication in our region. The remainder of the session will include interactive and facilitated group exercises where participants will get a chance to distill their research results for different audiences (e.g., the public, elected officials and other communities) and practice communicating complex scientific topics in compelling ways. For example, in small groups we will ‘reinterpret’ abstracts and project summaries to identify key messages that convey the science with accuracy but in ways that connect with different target audiences. Attendees will walk away from the session with a better understanding of ways to know and connect with your audience and some key strategies that can make their future climate science communications more rewarding, impactful, and connected to our frontline staff and communities.

4:15 - 5:30


(Afternoon Keynote)  Valuing Climate Damages: Policy Needs, Scientific Challenges, and a Path Forward

Kevin Rennert, Resources for the Future

8:30 - 9:45


Climate Resiliency Planning: Turning Science into Action

Facilitated by Gretchen Greene, Maul Foster & Alongi



10:00 - 11:30




Applied Sea Level Rise Science for Road Realignment and Design in San Juan County

Jim Johannessen, Coastal Geologic Services   

Regional projections of population growth in the Puget Sound have estimated close to half a million more people will move to the region by 2030. Waterfront property, whether along high bluffs or on low spits, constitutes the highest value real estate in the region. Puget Sound beaches and bluffs are not only valued waterfront real estate but also provide critical habitat functions such as beach sediment supply for wildlife and fish including ESA listed salmon populations, spawning areas for species central to the marine food web, and shellfish harvesting. Additional human values associated with nearshore areas include recreation, aesthetics, and spiritual values. Coastal Geologic Services conducted research aimed at areas of heightened vulnerability to implications of climate change and identified many roads and other infrastructure at risk to sea level rise in San Juan County. The range of coastal shoreforms in the county provided an opportunity to explore the variable climate change impacts across different landforms and how different areas may require different management approaches. Erosion control in the Puget Sound region has typically been designed for use during existing conditions only, and has not factored in sea level rise and the associated changes such as erosion, inundation, and shoreform transition.

Adaptation strategies of road abandonment, realignment, mitigation and partial mitigation will be discussed with different projects resulting from San Juan County roads at risk. Each project will be briefly described during the presentation. These projects are in varying stages of planning and design for adaptation to climate change. Roads on Sucia Island and Lopez Island are in design for realignment, a reach of road on Orcas Island was realigned, and another is considered for abandonment. Mitigation strategies were completed for two roads in the county with other mitigation projects implemented in summer-fall 2017. A groundbreaking planning and conceptual design alternative analysis project was completed in 2016-17 with San Juan County Public Works. The Mackaye Harbor Road project highlights the use of long-term (75 year) analyses with sea level rise science shaping management decisions, with the goal of design of adaptation actions towards more resilient infrastructure in San Juan County. This project integrated coastal processes and climate science along with roadway design, management and maintenance. These analyses were conducted with stakeholder input and numerous public involvement steps to identify the preferred alternative, which will go into design as soon as complete funding is available.


Collaborating with The Netherlands on Climate Resiliency for Highways

Carol Lee Roalkvam, WA Department of Transportation   

Carol Lee Roalkvam from WSDOT Environmental Services Office will share information and key takeaways from information exchanges between Washington State Department of Transportation, the USDOT Federal Highway Administration, and the Netherlands Ministry of Infrastructure and Environment (Rijkswaterstaat or RWS). This collaboration is examining climate change resilience tools developed in both countries on two infrastructure projects. The Netherlands project is the InnovA58 project, which expands a roadway in southern Holland from two lanes in each direction to three lanes in each direction. The US project that was selected for the collaboration is the SR167 Completion Project which completes a critical missing link to I-5 near Tacoma, Washington. The SR167 Project will construct approximately 6 miles of new highway and restore nearby creeks to improve ecological function. The analysis frameworks and accompanying tools that are being tested are the European ROADAPT and the US FHWA Climate Adaptation Framework. WSDOT and RWS are sharing information on road design and innovative storm water and riparian restoration as adaptive strategies. From April 8-15, 2017, a small US delegation from FHWA and Washington DOT traveled to the Netherlands to meet with project managers for the InnovA58 project, climate scientists, and Dutch experts in climate adaptation, asset management, emergency management, sustainability, and smart mobility.


Olympia's Sea Level Rise Response Plan

Andy Haub, City of Olympia   

The City of Olympia has long been aware of the vulnerability of its downtown to sea level rise. While currently able to protect itself from widespread flooding during high tide events, even a minimal amount of sea rise poses an untenable risk to downtown services. City staff has developed a clear technical understanding of how sea rise will affect our downtown. The dynamics and implications of marine flooding are well quantified. In 2016, City Council directed staff to begin focused and tangible planning. Proactive action is necessary. The City in partnership with the Port of Olympia, and the LOTT Clean Water Alliance began work on a formal sea level rise response plan in early 2017. The plan is prioritizing strategies and investments for best responding to sea rise, while protecting downtown economic, social and environmental values. The plan will identify needed actions, estimated costs and resources, implementation schedules and responsibilities. The expected specificity of the plan creates numerous challenges. A clearly defined scope of work and extensive public outreach is fundamental to the planning effort. Our community is very engaged in the effort. Work-to-date including the community-based risk and vulnerability assessment will be shared.


Future Tidal Wetlands of Oregon under Six Sea Level Rise Scenarios: Impacts, Locations, Priorities, and Planning

Fran Recht, Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission   

As sea level rises, our coastal salt marshes and shrub/forested tidal wetlands will become inundated or submerged more frequently, and as a result they are likely to shift upslope to new land surfaces, called tidal wetland “landward migration zones” or “LMZs.” Similarly, current vegetated tidal wetlands may convert to non-vegetated mudflats. Our team, a collaboration between nonprofit, state, regional, and federal entities, mapped tidal wetlands of the future for 23 estuaries on the Oregon coast south of the Columbia River. We conducted extensive outreach of results and delivered decision support tools (prioritization of identified LMZs) to coastal land managers and other stakeholders to help guide conservation planning for these valued ecosystems. In this presentation, we summarize results of the study, including future losses (and in some cases, gains) of tidal wetland area by estuary; the impact of developed areas on potential future tidal wetlands; a summary and discussion of areas prioritized for action planning purposes; and results of outreach accomplished across presentations to hundreds of participants during 2017-2018. We also present comparisons between our results and the results of other modeling approaches such as SLAMM and WARMER. Briefly, LMZs were mapped for 6 sea level rise (SLR) scenarios (23 to 350 cm), representing intermediate to high SLR scenarios through 2160 in the NRC West Coast Sea Level Rise study (2012) and recent NOAA studies (2017). Current and projected future water levels were related to land surfaces using NOAA’s VDatum tool; digital elevation models (DEMs) from LIDAR; and NOAA topobathy DEMs. Results indicate that total potential future tidal wetland area is most strongly impacted at scenarios above 1 m of SLR: across Oregon’s 12 largest estuaries, future tidal wetland area was reduced by 24% with 1.42 m SLR, 50% with 2.5 m SLR, and 62% with 3.5 m SLR, compared to current conditions. Data on built structures, impervious surfaces, zoning, and land ownership were analyzed to provide prioritization rankings at the NHDPlus Coastal Catchment scale in support of coastal conservation decision-making by coastal groups and land managers. The final project phase includes provision of web access to all products, including geospatial data, electronic versions of presentations, and a written report detailing methods and summarizing potential future tidal wetland area by estuary and SLR scenario. These products provide solid information on climate change impacts, along with adaptation guidance, for these important coastal and aquatic ecosystems.

10:00 - 11:30




Stream restoration to buffer climate change impacts on baseflows in the Upper Columbia Basin

Susan E. Dickerson-Lange, Natural Systems Design   

Summer baseflows are currently too low and too warm to meet water supply and aquatic habitat requirements in many streams across the Pacific Northwest. Baseflows are projected to decrease further in many tributaries as climate warms and snowpack and soil moisture water storage are reduced. Although aquatic habitat improvements from stream restoration have been widely recognized as part of salmon recovery efforts, critical water resources benefits from stream restoration are underappreciated and poorly quantified. Current and future water scarcity and flood risks are motivating proposals for new storage projects, such as dams. We assessed restoration actions for viability as an alternative to dampen climate change impacts on baseflow, while simultaneously providing numerous ecosystem benefits such as colder water temperatures. We evaluated watershed-scale “restorable” water storage in a tributary to the Wenatchee River, Washington, and find that restorable in situ water storage ranges from 6-16 acre-feet per mile of stream restored. These findings suggest that applying restoration actions throughout 10 miles of the stream network would result in 60- 160 acre-feet of additional, in situ water storage. Using a simplified computation of groundwater inflows and a scenario in which 10 miles of stream are restored, the increased water storage translates to a baseflow contribution of up to 0.5 cfs for three weeks. Preliminary cost estimates suggest that the cost per acre-foot of water storage would be less than half of the construction cost of building a reservoir, with little operations and maintenance cost, and no adverse environmental impacts. These findings provide the first quantitative estimates of the water storage benefits of stream restoration in the Columbia basin and clearly highlight the value of considering stream restoration as a fundamental large-scale approach to buffer climate change impacts on streamflows.


Stillaguamish watershed summer flow response to regional climate variability: Implications for salmon productivity

Frank Leonetti, Snohomish County Public Works   

Annual minimum flow (7-day and 30-day average daily flow, CFS) from 34 historic and current stream gaging locations were summarized for the Stillaguamish watershed and evaluated as responses to regional climate phenomena. Findings were used to evaluate a Puget Sound Partnership flow management recommendation and implications for salmon recovery were considered. Flow gaging from 1949-1956 and 2004-2013 are compared, when at least 7 gages operated. Long-term North Fork Stillaguamish low flows (87 years) were compared to the Skykomish, Skagit, Sauk, and Nooksack rivers. North Pacific Ocean climate metrics (PDO and ENSO - UW Climate data) indicate three phases of alternating “warmer-drier” and “wetter-cooler” conditions for the period of flow records. In particular, low flow in the NF Stillaguamish River was significantly correlated with the annual PDO during 85 years, and was corroborated among nearby rivers, except for the Nooksack River, fed by receding glaciers (cumulative water balance loss, USGS) since 1976. The NF Stillaguamish minimum 30-day flow was 55% higher on average for 1947-1985 than 1986-2013. For Squire, Jim, and Pilchuck creeks, the average 30-day low flow has declined by 43%, 10%, and 22%, respectively, between climate phases, though years of data availability varied.

However, during the recent “warmer-drier” phase, NF Stillaguamish River 30-day low flow has been increasing since 1986 (to 2013). This positive trend in low flow magnitude over 28 years is strongly correlated with the PDO during this phase and is not supportive of the PSP vital sign conclusion or management recommendation. The PSP within-phase analysis (post-1976) included higher flow years that lagged after the prior “cooler-wetter” climate phase ended (1976-1977). The abrupt and persistent decrease in summer flow that occurred after 1985 apparently affected coho smolt production in Washington and Oregon, and in one case (Bingham Creek) demonstrates the difference in low flow after 1985 reduced average coho smolt production by about 1/3 compared to before 1985. More recently (2005-2010) flows in Squire, Jim, Church, Deer, and Canyon creeks were correlated, but Squire Creek and Pilchuck Creek had the greatest interannual variation, suggesting degrees of flow vulnerability to changing climate could occur at the freshwater scale of individual salmon populations, affecting vulnerability by spatial distribution. Anticipating habitat and population effects could make protection and restoration actions more supportive of future conditions.


Climate change and water scarcity: the potential for social responses and institutional resiliency in the Pacific Northwest

William Jaeger, Oregon State University   

Climate change, population growth, and rising incomes have the potential to significantly affect the availability and use of water in the Pacific Northwest. Conventional wisdom regarding growing water use and inflexible management institutions can lead to pessimism about society’s ability to reduce demand in the face of limited water supply. However, our analysis of the behavioral, institutional, and legal sources of flexibility finds more potential for responsiveness than is often recognized. We evaluate the multiple ways in which society and its institutions may be able to respond to water scarcity in the case of extreme drought conditions. We do this using the Willamette Water 2100 model, a spatial-temporal model which combines high-resolution process models of both biophysical and human system components in Oregon’s Willamette River Basin. Model outputs indicate that warming temperatures will be accompanied by dramatic reductions in winter snowpack of 65-95% by late in this century. This loss of natural storage reduces flows into the basin’s federal storage reservoirs during spring when they are being filled. In the drought year we investigate, our “business-as-usual” scenario sees many reservoirs completely drained and downstream regulatory minimum instream flows, tied to the requirements in place under the 2008 final Biological Opinions for ESA-listed native fish, go unmet throughout the summer. We examine the potential responsiveness at all levels, including households, farms, cities, state-level institutions, and federal institutions to minimize or eliminate the adverse impacts of these shortages. In particular, we consider modifications to reservoir management, price adjustments for urban water users, cost disincentives on irrigation, and regulatory limits on irrigation water rights. Results indicate that institutional flexibility and social responsiveness can substantially reduce water demand. However, the ability of these responses to mitigate water shortages can depend significantly on the spatial and temporal juxtaposition of supply and demand adjustments.


Streamflow Deficits and Elasticity in Response to the 2015 Drought in the western United States

Christopher Konrad, U.S. Geological Survey   

Streamflow during the spring and summer of 2015 was exceptionally low across the western United States. Streamflow deficits in June were related to below-normal spring snowpack and spring precipitation even where water-year precipitation was near-normal. August streamflow was influenced by precipitation over a wider range of time scales indicating provincial differences in the seasonal distribution of precipitation and local effects of storage in snow, ice, and aquifers. Different measures of streamflow vulnerability to drought have distinct biases associated with aridity: streamflow deficits in terms of runoff depth generally are larger in more humid basins and during higher-flow seasons while changes in standardized measures (e.g., percent change in streamflow) are larger in more arid basins. These divergent responses follow from the non-linear relation between streamflow, Q, and precipitation, P, reflecting the preferential flux of water through evapo-transpiration with increasing aridity. Changes in seasonal precipitation remain critical uncertainties for predicting streamflow responses to climate change and seasonal water availability in the western United States.

10:00 - 11:30




Salmon and Sagebrush: The Shoshone-Bannock Tribes Collaborative Approach to Adaptation Planning

Wayne Crue, Shoshone-Bannock Tribes, Sascha Petersen, Adaptation International   

The Shoshone-Bannock Tribes reside in the Snake River Watershed area in southeast Idaho. As with many Tribal communities their lives and culture are intertwined with the lands where they live; lands which continue to sustain the Tribes cultural, spiritual, dietary and economic needs. Climate change presents a new threat to the region requiring innovative approaches to prepare for changes as well as to protect the natural resources within the region. As a critical first step in building climate resilience, the Tribes worked with Adaptation International, the University of Washington’s Climate Impacts Group (CIG), and the Oregon Climate Change Research Institute (OCCRI) to complete a collaborative climate change vulnerability assessment and adaptation planning process. This presentation provides an overview of collaborative process, shares the results of the project, and includes a 3-minute video presentation. The project started with the identification of 34 plant and animal species to focus on in the vulnerability assessment. OCCRI analyzed detailed downscaled climate projections for two key climate scenarios (RCP 4.5 and RCP 8.5) and time scale (2050s and 2080s). CIG then used NatureServe’s Climate Change Vulnerability Index (CCVI) to develop initial relative vulnerability results for these species. A team of Tribal staff refined these results, drawing upon and integrating local knowledge of the natural environmental and cultural resources. The adaptation planning phase of the project continued in a similar collaborative manner with the project team identifying promising adaptation actions and working directly with Tribal staff to refine and customize these strategies. Tailoring the actions to the local context provides a framework for action that the Tribes can continue to build on in the future. By engaging in efforts to identify vulnerable species and adaptation strategies and actions to minimize the negative effects of climate change, the Tribes have demonstrated their continued commitment to protecting their vital natural resources. The Tribes will continue to implement projects across landscapes in the near term and utilize the information co-produces as part of this project to develop long-term strategies and projects to build resilience.

A Coastline Online: ShoreZone.org   

In 2017 researchers returned to each community to meet with students, to jointly present findings to community members and to discuss options for moving forward.


Coastal climate change in SE Alaska: The ShoreZone data base and observations and experiences of local residents

Linda Kruger, U.S. Forest Service   

Although subsistence lifeways are integral to indigenous coastal residents globally, assessments of predicted resource alterations attributed to ongoing physical change are rare. Such summaries provide a better understanding of ecosystem dynamics and can guide land use policies aimed at sustaining resources for communities facing change. In response to the need for such a summary we initiated a study in 2015 with funding from the Western Wildland Environmental Threat Assessment Center (WWETAC) and the PNW Research Station Underserved Community Fund. In 2016 we received additional funding from the Chugach National Forest Diversity Fund.

Our research objective was three-fold: (1) to determine physical attributes associated with shoreline communities, (2) to summarize associations between physical attributes and coastal benthic species, and (3) to predict future resource vulnerabilities based on coastal geomorphic trends. We aimed to identify existing and future relationships among physical shoreline features and biologic coastal attributes in coastlines affected by isostatic rebound, tectonic shift, and sea level rise. We used the ShoreZone database (www.alaskafisheries.noaa.gov) to assess current coastal resources and to estimate future resources in the vicinity of several Tribal communities in Southeast Alaska. Over the summers of 2015 and 2016 local high school students, working as research assistants, met with local elders and other residents to discuss their experiences and observations of change, especially in regard to species used for food, and food gathering activities.

The final report will inform resource management decisions that may affect traditional lifeways, provide information that may be useful to Tribes adapting to climate change, and serve as a guide for assessment of research needs for shoreline communities elsewhere. In conducting this research we linked known coastal information derived from ShoreZone with measurements and local observations of coastal change and changes of species important for food, food webs, and for coastal stability. The study provided an opportunity for community engagement, for empowering high school students, and for bringing community members of all ages together to focus on local experiences and observations of change. Approximately 10 presentations have been made at professional and community meetings, two peer-reviewed publications are in draft stages, several articles have been published in the regional Capital City Weekly, and our methodology was included in a 360 North (KTOO) documentary.


A Climate Change Assessment of Vegetation, Fire, and Ecosystem Services for Tribal lands in the Pacific Northwest

Michael Case, University of Washington   

Climate change has already led to significant changes in species composition, phenology, biotic interactions, and disturbance regimes in western North America. Native Americans may be highly vulnerable to these changes because they rely heavily on ecosystem services, including traditional foods, hunting, timber production, non-timber forest resources, ranching quality, agricultural suitability, cultural resources, among others. Native Americans are also culturally tied to the historical landscape and recognize many places that are sacred and outside tribal reservation boundaries. In response to the potential impacts, we applied an integrated assessment and identified changes to vegetation, fire, and ecosystem services across tribal lands and sacred places throughout the Pacific Northwest. Specifically, we applied a dynamic general vegetation model (DGVM) across Washington and Oregon and summarized projected changes in climate, vegetation, and fire. Our results show substantial changes in some vegetation types (such as subalpine forests and shrub steppe) due to climate change and fire. We then created a crosswalk that links specific species and ecosystem services that are valued by tribes with DGVM simulated vegetation types. We demonstrate how these changes will impact economically and culturally important ecosystem services for tribes. Surprisingly some first foods and medicinal plants may increase in suitable habitat whereas arid-land species and grazing quality are projected to decline. We demonstrate how this information will be used in partnership with tribal organizations to help inform resource management and adaptation planning.


Cultivating Tribal Capacity for Climate Change Adaptation

Don Sampson, Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians   

This presentation discusses results of research and education that is advancing tribal climate adaptation capability. Native communities are among the most climate sensitive groups within the Northwest region. Increasing the resilience of tribal governments and native communities is critical preparation for future climate change scenarios. Climate readiness will help tribes achieve good health and self-rule. Results of research conducted by ATNI and funded by boundary organization NW CSC will be presented. This research measures the range of capacity building needs in Northwest tribes and specific needs of 15 Columbia River Basin Tribes. The results of this research were then used in the design of an educational program, Tribal Climate Camp (TCC). TCC builds capacity in teams of tribal leaders, climate change coordinators, planners, and program managers to practice skills, gather information, and develop tribal policy needed to address climate change impacts. Now in its second year, this educational program is funded by the BIA and implemented through a collaboration between the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians (ATNI), Institute for Tribal Government (ITG), Department of the Interior (USDI) Northwest Climate Science Center (NW CSC), University of Idaho, Michigan State University, and Woven Strategies LLC.

10:00 - 11:30




Community-led Planning, Resilience, and Adaptation on San Juan Island

Katie Fleming and Nora Ferm Nickum, Fiends of the San Juans   

Islands Climate Resilience (ICR) is a grassroots, volunteer-led effort to assess climate vulnerabilities to water resources, ecosystems, agriculture, and communities in the San Juan Islands. With very minimal resources, the group has found and tested creative ways to learn about local vulnerabilities and identify ways to build resilience. This has included forming a water resilience work group, surveying terrestrial managers, organizing outreach events, and influencing the San Juan County Comprehensive Plan process. The team will share their experiences, challenges and lessons.


Roadmap to recovery: Climate change and ecosystem recovery in Puget Sound

Jennifer Pouliotte, Puget Sound Partnership   

Considered the largest estuary by volume in the US, the Puget Sound is a complex ecosystem encompassing alpine, forests, wetlands, rivers, farmlands and cities. It supports a large part of Washington State’s economy and provides vital recreational, cultural and other quality of life benefits. Multiple pressures, from land development, water pollution and climate change, all demand attention in order to achieve legislative goals for Puget Sound ecosystem recovery. So, what do rising temperatures, shifting precipitation patterns, and changing ocean conditions mean for ecosystem recovery planning and coordination in the Puget Sound? The Puget Sound Partnership (PSP) is the state agency lead on the region’s collective effort to restore and protect Puget Sound. The PSP has begun efforts to understand the implications of climate change on Puget Sound recovery and long-term protection and integrate climate considerations into the various layers of planning and coordination (both geographic and issue-based). We will draw on examples of priority ecosystem components, such as shellfish bed restoration and salmon recovery, to create a narrative of how climate affects the Puget Sound. How those considerations are being woven into recovery efforts to help inform smart investments, align the work of partners, and support priority actions that reduce the risks of climate change and promote resiliency will be described. Examples of completed and ongoing efforts will be presented, including:

  • A recent report commissioned by the PSP, Climate Change Risk Assessment for the Puget Sound Partnership (Climate Impact Group, forthcoming),
  • Guidance on incorporating climate change into restoration and protection salmon recovery project design, and
  • Approaches to evaluating priority actions for recovery. Ecosystem recovery efforts are ambitious in terms of their scope and complexity; climate change is one of many components that will need to be addressed. Examples in the presentation will be used to highlight the diversity of entry points and partnerships required for a robust approach to planning and implementation and portray an overall strategy for climate adaptation in Puget Sound recovery.


Learning from a capacity-based approach to adaptation monitoring and evaluation

Johanna Wolf, BC Ministry of Environment   

Monitoring and evaluation (M&E;) for adaptation is an emerging area of research and policy. A structured approach to monitoring adaptation aims to provide objective information about where progress is being made and where additional capacity is needed, which can inform how to direct resources. An M&E; framework for adaptation can also improve public accountability through regular reporting of progress on the management of climate-related risks. Three main types of approaches to M&E; have been distinguished; process-based, outcome-based, and readiness-based. This paper presents the results of applying a novel readiness-based approach that relies on identifying and tracking a set of key capacities that are each pre-conditions for adaptation. Adaptation is supported by a set of pre-conditions that together make up the adaptation-relevant characteristics of a system. These pre-conditions act as capacities that are necessary to enable action on adaptation. This capacity-based approach interprets readiness as having the key capacities in place to act on adaptation that represent three categories, knowledge, implementation, evaluation. The framework tracks whether and how knowledge about climate change and its effects is available and accessible, and whether and how actors have the ability to make this knowledge meaningful. In the implementation category, the framework tracks authority over decisions, supporting motivation and mandates to act, building public support, strengthening organizational capacity including human capacity and capacity to work across organizations, and building financial capacity. In evaluation, the framework tracks the monitoring of evidence, public reporting, and whether regular reviews take place. This paper will discuss the results of trialing this framework with a set of provincial data sources and illustrate lessons learned. The results suggest that a capacity-based approach to a readiness M&E; framework can yield usable information in the early stages of an M&E; system that can help identify strengths and weaknesses on adaptation action.


Measuring the progress of adaptation made by state agencies in Washington

Joe Casola, University of Washington   

This presentation will review the progress made by Washington State agencies in pursuing adaptation actions, and will outline a framework that agencies can employ to track future progress. Our research indicates that agencies have pursued nearly two-thirds of the adaptation actions outlined in the Washington Integrated Climate Response Strategy, published in 2012. Many of the actions pursued are related to gathering and synthesizing information (e.g., assessing vulnerabilities, analyzing relevant climate or resource trends) and policy and programmatic development. Fewer actions have involved changes in infrastructure or resource management. Implementation of actions is facilitated by the inclusion of adaptation goals in an agency’s or program’s strategic plan. While many agency staff feel they have access to sufficient information about future climate, they mentioned a number of barriers to taking specific adaptation actions, including lack of institutional support, limited capacity, and limited financial resources. Despite the large number of efforts occurring, the absence of a systematic monitoring and evaluation process makes it hard for agencies identify past accomplishments or future needs, especially those that may exist across agencies. Drawing from literature on programmatic monitoring and evaluation, we will present a simple framework that can be applied to state agencies or programs. The framework, which links adaptation outcomes to agency actions, technical information, and staffing and financial resources, can expedite the implementation of adaptation actions. If used by a number of agencies or programs, the framework could facilitate a more standardized approach to assessing progress, enhance interagency communication, the leveraging of complementary assets and resources, and the identification of common needs or gaps.

12:30 - 2:00


Multi-disciplinary perspectives of ocean acidification

Moderator: Lucas Hart, Northwest Straits Commission   


Terrie Klinger, University of Washington
Advances in Understanding Ocean Acidification in Washington State

Micah Horwith, Washington Department of Natural Resources
Past the near meadows: shellfish performance across eelgrass-driven pH gradients

Melissa Watkinson, University of Washington
Socio-cultural dimensions of ocean acidification: a community-based project with the Squaxin Island Tribe

Jennifer Phillips, State of California Ocean Protection Council
Policy and management perspectives of ocean acidification

This special session will address the chemical, biological, social and management aspects of ocean acidification in Puget Sound and throughout Washington State. Four individual presenters from each sub-specialty will be invited to speak about the current state of knowledge within their area of study. Following the presentations, presenters will serve as a panel to field audience questions and contribute to a 30 minute discussion. The objective of the session is to advance our understanding of how we can work cohesively, and across disciplines, to advance our understanding of ocean acidification and related adaptation and mitigation options. Conference attendees will have the opportunity to learn about the many facets of ocean acidification research and the challenges we face to assure resilient marine ecosystems, cultures and economies.


Stormwater and Flooding in King County: Co-producing research to support adaptation

Moderator: Eric Salathé, UW Bothell   
Identification of local flood generating mechanisms and their sensitivity to climate change


Guillaume Mauger, UW Climate Impacts Group
Precipitation Extremes and Stormwater: Using a regional climate model to assess risks

Se-Yeun Lee, UW Climate Impacts Group
Changes in flood risk, with regulation, on the Green and Snohomish Rivers

Jim Simmonds, King County
Addressing Climate Change when Controlling Combined Sewer Overflows, Managing Stormwater, Protecting Small Streams, and Managing Floodplains in King County, Washington

King County has experienced 12 federally declared flood disasters since 1990, and tens of thousands of county residents commute through, live, and work in floodplains. Stormwater is another critical management challenge, exacerbated by aging infrastructure, combined sewer and stormwater systems, and continued development. Even absent the effects of climate change these would be challenging to address. Recent studies clearly point to an increase in precipitation extremes for the Pacific Northwest (e.g., Warner et al. 2015). Yet very little information is available on the magnitude and spatial distribution of this change. The literature is clear that this can only be accomplished with dynamical downscaling: in which a regional climate model is used to develop local-scale projections of future climate. This session describes a suite of research and adaptation efforts developed in a close collaboration between King County and the UW Climate Impacts Group. All research was developed using the Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF, Skamarock et al. 2005) regional climate model. Both the model implementation and post-simulation analyses were tailored to the needs of King County managers, addressing three key science questions: (1) How is precipitation in King County affected by changes in large-scale weather conditions? (2) How will precipitation extremes change, and (3) What are the implications for flood risk on King County rivers?The session will begin with presentations on each of the three science topics, followed by an overview of the management context, the implications for King County planning and infrastructure, and the results of a scientist-manager workshop aimed at defining next steps.


Picking Climate Change Winners and Losers in the Pacific Northwest Depends on Methodology and Scale

Moderator: David M. Bell, USDA Forest Service Pacific Northwest Research Station   

Co-Chair: John B. Kim, USDA Forest Service Pacific Northwest Research Station


Leonardo Salas, Point Blue Conservation Science
Modeling from the ground up: changes in vegetation composition greatly impact bird distribution model predictions in the Pacific Northwest

Michael Case, University of Washington
Mechanisms of Vegetation Response to Climate Change in the Pacific Northwest Simulated by DGVMs: Are They Reliable?

Julia Michalak, University of Washington
Prioritizing vulnerability assessment planning across the National Parks Service

Lisa Corvier, NOAA - Fisheries
Climate Vulnerability Assessment of Protected Salmon Populations

The Northwest of North America is comprised of highly contrasting ecosystems. These ecosystems are subject to a wide range of responses to projected climate change capable of altering regional vegetation patterns and associated ecosystem services. However, substantial uncertainties in the pattern, magnitude, and consequences of landscape change remain due to (1) high diversity of landscapes in the region, (2) methodological differences in how we predict and project climate change impacts, and (3) varying spatial- and temporal-focuses of the climate change research. These methodological differences result in a cacophony of climate change impact predictions and projections that are, at times, difficult for scientists, managers, and decision makers to reconcile. The outcomes of differing ecological research projects may be in stark contrast and some outcomes may be viewed skeptically by users. Some results may appear counterintuitive because species or functional groups appear to be “winners” rather than “losers” under differing methodological frameworks, scales of inference, or climate projections. This special session aims to explore contrasting predictions and projections of vegetation response to climate change in the Pacific Northwest arising from multiple lines of evidence and spatio-temporal focuses to provoke, challenge and encourage dialogs among scientists, managers, and decision makers. The session will conclude with a panel discussion examining how such diverse perspectives can be integrated into a common framework for advancing our understanding of climate change impacts in the Pacific Northwest.


Catalyzing community resilience: bridging science and local action

Moderator: Tye Ferrell, Principal, Resilience Collaborative NW   

Amanda Murphy, Ruckelshaus Center Senior Project Lead, WSU Extension Faculty
Phyllis Shulman, Ruckelshaus Center Special Projects, WSU Extension; Principal, Resilience Collaborative NW

The presenters will discuss findings and lessons learned from a recent assessment of coastal resilience efforts on the Washington coast. The William D. Ruckelshaus Center Washington State Coast Resilience Assessment, May 2017, examines the state of coastal resilience efforts among multiple players and offers actions and strategies to strengthen community and ecological resilience, across multiple issues, sectors, and boundaries. The presenters will provide lessons learned from the assessment, with a focus on what they heard from participants about how climate science can better support local mitigation and adaptation efforts in areas that are experiencing climate impacts directly. The stakes for many local communities on the Washington Coast who are experiencing climate change impacts are high and there is a core group of volunteers and professionals who are dedicated to understanding, mitigating, and adapting to these changes. We will discuss ways that these efforts can be better supported by scientists; the relationship between key ecological and social issues; and some of the conditions for community resilience.

2:15 - 4:00


Discussion of the National Climate Assessment Draft and the Northwest Chapter

David Reidmiller, U.S. Global Change Research Program
Kris May, Silvestrum Climate Associates


Varying Actors, Varying Aspirations: Climate Change Policy and Native Nations

Nives Dolsak, University of Washington


Flooding, Warm Nights, and Wildfires: How Community Defined Critical Thresholds for Extreme Events Can Be Used to Build Climate Resilience

Sascha Petersen, Adaptation International


Closing Comments

Joe Casola, UW Climate Impacts Group