The Next 100 Years

Looking at our last post on climate change, you get the sense that we’ll see a steady rise in temperature on the order of 3 degrees C.  That’s not quite right. It won’t be a “steady” rise. What we’ll more likely see, if future climate change is anything like the past 150 years, is a bumpy ride.  Something like this (from the Hadley Climate Centre):

The global temperature map may look roughly like this (again, from the Hadley Climate Centre):

Note how the northern hemisphere heats up the most, especially far northern latitudes, because land heats up faster than water.  And how the far southern hemisphere is slower to warm, again because of the moderating effect of the southern oceans.  Southern Chile, Argentina, South Africa and Australia look downright temperate.  Here’s an easy prediction: these places will be prime real estate for climate refugees, both well-heeled and not.

It’s only human to look at your neck of the woods, so what about the Pacific Northwest?  To get a comprehensive picture, visit University of Oregon’s Climate Leadership Initiative, or the Oregon Climate Change Research Institute.  It’s a complex future, but the bottom line can be summarized in a few graphs, that show temperatures rising erratically by about 3 to 5 degrees C, depending on the climate model (three are shown below):

And showing winter precipitation increasing according to two of three models, and summer precipitation decreasing.

And finally, snow-pack may decrease by about 80 percent below 1961 – 1990 levels, since with higher temperatures, we’ll be seeing more rain than snow in the fall and spring.  Check out the southern Rockies and the Sierra Nevada: basically snow-free by 2100.

What’s all this mean for us? Nothing, since as George Bush once said, we’ll be dead. (What a guy.) But what about our grandchildren?  Well, don’t expect them to get too excited about that ski chalet you’re leaving them in your will.  If they want to ski in the year 2100, they’ll be heading to Washington or British Columbia, along with all the skiers from California. Fishing for salmon or trout?  Head north.  Growing a fine pinot? Head north. Packing for a day at the beach in July? Leave the sweater.

The main point here is that the climate transition that we’re likely to go through will be bumpy, unpredictable, and for climate dependent industries, challenging. So what will life be like for our grand-kids? As we’ve all heard, making predictions is tough, especially about the future.  But we’ll give it a shot next week.

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