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    Author(s): Sue A. Ferguson
    Date: 1997
    Source: Res. Pap. PNW-RP-499. Portland, OR: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Research Station.
    Publication Series: Research Paper (RP)
    Station: Pacific Northwest Research Station
    PDF: Download Publication  (1.6 MB)


    This work describes the method used to generate a climate-change scenario for the Columbia River basin. The scenario considers climate patterns that may change if the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide (C02), or its greenhouse gas equivalent, were to double over pre-Industrial Revolution values. Given the current rate of increase in atmospheric C02 concentration, doubling could occur within the next 50 to 100 years.

    The Columbia River basin is in a transition climate zone between predominating maritime to the west, arctic to the north, and continental to the east. Consequently, it is difficult to characterize through means and averages. Therefore, many of the current stochastic methods for developing climate-change scenarios cannot directly apply to the basin. To circumvent this problem, a composite approach was taken to generate a climate scenario that considers knowledge of current regional climate controls, available output from general circulation and regional climate models, and observed changes in climate.

    The resulting climate-change scenario suggests that precipitation could increase substantially during winter (+20 to +50 percent) and moderately during spring and autumn (+5 to +35 percent). A slight decrease (0 to -5 percent) in summer precipitation is possible, except for the southeastern portions of the basin that may experience an increase in convective precipitation (+5 percent).

    Low-elevation (<1 kilometer) temperatures throughout the year may increase 1 to 3 °C, with greatest increases during winter. This amount of temperature change is possible because of an expected loss of low-elevation snow cover. At high elevations, increased cloud cover could cause average temperatures to decrease during winter but be synchronized with possible warming at low elevations during summer. The diurnal range of temperature could decrease, especially in summer and autumn.

    Publication Notes

    • Visit PNW's Publication Request Page to request a hard copy of this publication.
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    • This article was written and prepared by U.S. Government employees on official time, and is therefore in the public domain.


    Ferguson, Sue A. 1997. A climate-change scenario for the Columbia River Basin. Res. Pap. PNW-RP-499. Portland, OR: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Research Station.


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    climate, climate change, climate scenario, Columbia River basin, Pacific Northwest, global warming, general circulation model, regional climate model, global change, global climate, greenhouse gas

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