MARBLEMOUNT, Wash. - In this century, the average air temperature in
the Northwest will rise by 3 degrees to 10 degrees, warns a new
government analysis of the effects of climate change. The report this
week from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)
also forecasts a host of hot-weather problems, including shrinking
National Park Service scientists are tracking glacier melting rates in
North Cascades National Park. Jon Riedel, the geologist in charge of
the project, says the ice is melting faster, especially in the last 16
"The loss of glaciers has meant a decline in our 'glacial bank
account,' if you want to call it that, of about 400 billion gallons of
water. That is the net loss from this increase in melting. And that
represents about one month of flow of the Skagit River."
The Skagit is the largest river feeding Puget Sound, Riedel explains.
Washington has more than 700 glaciers, the most of any state except
Alaska. Less snowpack means less water for fish and wildlife,
hydropower, forest fire control and agriculture.
The report does not surprise Riedel. People who live in the Cascades,
he says, already are seeing the effects of climate change. He's pleased
that the government is acknowledging the problems.
"The information is in front of us: It's getting warmer, and that trend
likely is related to humans and our impact on the atmosphere. It's
certainly time that we do something, but it is such a political issue
and, frankly, right now there's a lot on the agenda in Washington, D.C."
Greenhouse gas pollution is worse than other studies have indicated,
the NOAA report says, and it suggests more aggressive action be taken
to curtail it. The report compiles two years of data from more than a
dozen federal agencies. Skeptics continue to believe climate change is
a natural cycle and is not linked to human actions.
"Global Climate Change Impacts in the United States," issued by the
U.S. Global Change Research Program, a NOAA project, is available at www.globalchange.gov/usimpacts