No. 26

Greenhouse climatic warming is underway and exacerbated by human activities. Future outcomes of these processes can be projected using computer models checked against climatic changes during comparable past atmospheric compositions. This study gives concise quantitative predictions for future climate, landscapes, soils, vegetation, and marine and terrestrial animals of Oregon. Fossil fuel burning and other human activities by the year 2100 are projected to yield atmospheric CO2 levels of about 600-850 ppm (SRES A1B and B1), well above current levels of 400 ppm and preindustrial levels of 280 ppm. Such a greenhouse climate was last recorded in Oregon during the middle Miocene, some 16 million years ago. Oregon’s future may be guided by fossil records of the middle Miocene, as well as ongoing studies on the environmental tolerances of Oregon plants and animals, and experiments on the biological effects of global warming. As carbon dioxide levels increase, Oregon’s climate will move toward warm temperate, humid in the west and semiarid to subhumid to the east, with increased summer and winter drought in the west. Western Oregon lowlands will become less suitable for temperate fruits and nuts and Pinot Noir grapes, but its hills will remain a productive softwood forest resource. Improved pasture and winter wheat crops will become more widespread in eastern Oregon. Tsunamis and stronger storms will exacerbate marine erosion along the Oregon Coast, with significant damage to coastal properties and cultural resources.

Published: 2016-03-31