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Oregon Summer Forecast: Bake ‘til Golden Brown

April 14, 2008

Portland, OR – Oregon will bake to a golden brown this summer, according to federal weather predictions for a hotter, drier summer. That comes as no surprise to the Rocky Mountain Climate Organization (RMCO). In conjunction with the Natural Resources Defense Council, RMCO has completed a study of 100 years of climate data and found that the West is heating up faster than the rest of the country. Oregon's average temperature increase has been 1.4 degrees in the past five years.

That doesn't sound like much, but study author Stephen Saunders, RMCO founder and president, says there's already enough pollution in the atmosphere for another two degrees of warming. And, as the temperature inches up, it affects just about everything that lives, and everyone who takes vacations, outdoors.

"We've had stream closures just because the water is too hot, which stresses trout in particular. We've had effects on hunting. We've also had increases in wildfire, which affects recreation, too."

Saunders says one effect is that snowpack is melting earlier, which means less water later in the summer when it's needed most. Another troublesome condition is warmer water, Saunders says. It's a cause of declining fish populations, and a factor in the growing "dead zone" off the Oregon coast that now covers more than 1,000 square miles.

"It's serious, it's growing and it's not yet well understood, other than that it's a problem we're beginning to cause. But it's more evidence of why we need to start to reduce the pollution that we're putting up, so we can preserve the place where we're living."

Saunders says the "dead zone" has oxygen levels lower than normally required for marine life to survive. It is located off the coast, roughly between Lincoln City and Florence.

Overall, the study of 11 western states found temperature in the West has risen by 1.7 degrees. Saunders believes the situation is controllable, however, if people work to decrease carbon emissions and other global warming pollution.
The report, "Warming in the West," is available online at www.nrdc.org. Summer forecasts through August are available from the National Weather Service Climate Prediction Center.

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - OR