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How Global Warming Will Change Seattle

We recently wrote about how global warming will change California. Now a new report says that there will be major changes in Washington state as well. "The time for plain speaking is long overdue," says climatologist Edward Miles. "We have never faced a problem like this."

Lisa Stiffler and Robert McClure write in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer that the area's major problems in the future will be include a shortened ski season, sinking cities, California-style wildfires and mahi-mahi, instead of salmon.

One of the most noticed effects in California will be the probable loss of the wine industry, which is very sensitive to temperature change. In Washington, it may be the reduction in the ski season. A ski season that's now four months long will shrink to three months in 20 years. In 40 years, it could shrink to two months. "We rely 100% on natural snow," says Jon Pretty of the Summit at Snoqualmie. "If Mother Nature isn't able to make it snow, we're de facto out of business." Snow making equipment can't take up the slack, because it requires temperatures in the 20s or below.

Climate change will bring wetter, warmer winters to the Northwest, meaning there will be more floods. Water is usually stored as snow in the mountains, which gradually melts in the spring. However, warmer temperatures mean there will less snow and more rain, thus more water will be coming down more quickly. "Global warming is something that will reduce snowpacks, but not necessarily the rain we receive," says water manager John Bowman.

Although the area will be wetter, there will also be droughts leading to wildfires, because snowpack prevents trees and underbrush from taking root. Without it, there will be more forest growth and thus more to burn. Wildfires that evacuate whole cities, of the kind recently seen in California, will become a reality in Washington as well.

We know that Venice and New Orleans are gradually sinking. Soon we'll be able to add Olympia, Washington to that list, because a large portion of it is in a low-lying coastal area. Global warming increases sea levels, which also causes salt water to pollute drinking water supplies. This will be worse in areas affected by the movement of massive tectonic plates. Right now, the plate under Olympia is sinking as water levels rise, meaning the sea could be a foot higher in 2050 and 3 feet higher in 2100.

Another major change will be in local fish species, due to warmer ocean temperatures. New fish, such as mahi mahi from Hawaii, are moving into local waters, sending many of the native salmon up north, to colder waters.

The authors say, "Never before has human society existed in a world where the concentration of heat-trapping carbon dioxide is as high as it is now?the highest in at least 420,000 years." The fact that the Earth has been getting warmer since the mid-1800s shows that a great deal of it is due to human impact.

"It's an accurate reflection of where the scientific community is to say, 'We done it,'" says climatologist Philip Mote. "If your doctor told you there was a 95% chance that you were going to suffer X consequence if you don't take Y action, you wouldn't mess around hoping that 5% chance comes true." But that's just what we're doing.

What's in our future??To find out, do the numbers. This popular book is part of our great new Christmas store.

Everyone who lives in Washington state should read this excellent article.

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