By Guillaume Mauger, Research Scientist, Climate Impacts Group, UW Seattle
Sea level rise isn’t the only factor driving changes in flood risk for Washington State: many rivers and creeks in the region are projected to see higher peak flows in the future. This is especially a concern in estuaries, where the combined changes in river flow and sea level could dramatically change the outlook for flooding.
Rivers flood because of high flows, of course, and there are two principal ways that climate change could affect the size and frequency of flooding. The most well-known is by decreasing the amount of snowpack. Mountain snow acts as a reservoir, holding back water in winter and releasing it in summer. As temperatures rise, storm events bring more rain and less snow. Much of that excess rain goes directly into our rivers, leading to bigger floods. The other major effect is the intensity of our rain events – research has only recently begun to quantify how our big storms might change in the future, and that modeling generally shows that those storms will bring more rain. More rain means larger floods. This is all summarized in a nice infographic, developed by the Skagit Climate Science Consortium, or SC2.
By Hannah Hickey and edited by MaryAnn Wagner
A new report by the Washington Coastal Resilience Project team, entitled Projected Sea Level Rise for Washington State – A 2018 Assessment, provides new projections for more than 150 different sites along the Washington coastline, from all marine shorelines in Washington state.
The report incorporates the unique geology-driven land motion, with uplift at Neah Bay and sinking in Seattle. And it provides the latest, probabilistic estimates to let planners weigh the risks of different scenarios.
From the Center for Climate Change communication:
"...Global warming and climate change are used differently and mean different things in the minds of many Americans. Scientists often prefer the term climate change for technical reasons, but should be aware that the two terms generate different interpretations among the general public and specific subgroups. [...]
It is important to note, however, that connotative meanings are dynamic and change, sometimes rapidly. It is possible that with repeated use, climate change will come to acquire similar connotative meanings as global warming, that the two will eventually become synonymous for most people, or that climate change will supplant global warming as the dominant term in public discourse. In the meantime, however, the results of these studies strongly suggest that the two terms continue to mean different things to many Americans."
Which do you prefer to use, global warming or climate change? To me, climate change seems to better encompass phenomena like ocean acidification, which is not temperature-dependent, as well as the secondary processes that result from warming, like decreased photorespiration in plants. There's a time and a place for both climate change and global warming, and it never hurts to ask what each term means to your audience.
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