Friday, July 18, 2008

Report details climate change in Clark Fork region of Montana

Another worthy regional climate change study. From New West (Montana): A new report by the Missoula-based nonprofit Clark Fork Coalition provides a comprehensive view of how global climate change has affected - and will likely affect - western Montana and north Idaho.

“We view this as a starting point for discussion and a motivator for action,” said Clark Fork Coalition director Karen Knudsen. Temperatures in the report’s coverage area increased, on average by 1.4 degrees Fahrenheit over the past 50 years and may well continue to warm, over the next 100 years, by another 5.4 degrees.

The 36-page report, entitled “Low Flows, Hot Trout,” lays out its information on the Clark Fork River’s watershed in a business-like way. It starts with temperatures and precipitation and then goes into the water with stream flows and snow and extends into the backcountry with wildfires and wildlife.

Almost everyone has anecdotes about how climate change plays out - whether it’s the wildfires or the warm autumns or the longer gardening season. This report uses a broad array of data, and then puts those anecdotes into context. The rivers are getting warmer. The glaciers are receding. The growing season is getting longer.

“It turns out that we’re undergoing a big shift,” Knudsen said. The data strongly suggests the warming trend will have a significant impact on the region. It’ll punish those things - wolverines and arctic graylings among them - that rely on a colder world. It could also prompt more conflicts between humans and wildlife….

Map of the Clark Fork River by "Pfly," Wikimedia Commons, under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation license, Version 1.2

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