What the new climate change report says about the Northwest

Climate change impacts to the western U.S. were laid out Monday
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Noah Berger

Following the Dixie Fire, flames burn in a tree in the Canyondam area of Plumas County, Calif., Friday, Aug. 6, 2021.

On Monday, a new report on the state of climate change around the world was released to the public. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is a division of the United Nations. This is the IPCC’s sixth major report since being established in 1988 and the first since 2014.

2021ipcc Temppathways En Notitle Lg

Source: Climate Central

Monday’s release contains information on how the earth’s climate is changing in response to human-caused greenhouse gasses and projections for how it will change in the future. Here are three things from this report that apply to the Inland Northwest.

READ MORE: ‘Nowhere to run’: 5 takeaways from the UN report on climate change, plus global reaction

Ipcc Heat

Source: IPCC

1. Hotter in every season

Let’s start with the obvious; the “warming” of global warming. The IPCC report states that average temperatures will continue to climb at double the rate of overall global warming in the Inland Northwest. If carbon dioxide emissions continue as normal through 2050, temperatures in the Inland Northwest will be on average 5 degrees Fahrenheit warmer in the winter and 6 degrees warmer in the summer than they were in 1900. Extreme heatwaves by 2050 could become 10 percent more likely in any given year too at the rate of current warming.

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2. Water Supply

These temperature changes, especially in the wintertime, can be the difference between rain and snow in many places. The IPCC report states that there is no major change forecast for wintertime moisture in the Northwest. However, winter snowfall is expected to start decreasing over the next 20 years while spring snowfall could decrease significantly by 2060. Spring snowmelt is an important resource for agriculture, recreation, wildlife, power generation, and other aspects of the Inland Northwest economy. Climate change could lead to the snowmelt being earlier in the year and less potent.

Ipcc Drought

Source: IPCC

3. Drought and Fire Weather

Western North America is already seeing the impacts of a warming climate according to data from the IPCC. Since the year 2000, the U.S. Drought Monitor recorded five periods of extensive drought across the West.

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Flames leap from trees as the Dixie Fire jumps Highway 89 north of Greenville in Plumas County, Calif., on Tuesday, Aug. 3, 2021. Dry and windy conditions have led to increased fire activity as firefighters battle the blaze which ignited July 14.

The IPCC reports that there is medium confidence that climate change was a contributor to these longer, more severe droughts over the last two decades. Projections in the IPCC report show that extreme drought events could be 50 to 90 percent more likely by 2050. The combination of drought and heat often lead to fire weather conditions, which are given high confidence to increase in the West as well in the coming decades.

READ MORE: IPCC Full Report and Summary