Climate change in Washington state

Discussing the adverse effects that climate change has had on Washington state.

Hannah PedersonReporter

It’s no secret that something is going on with the global climate. Some argue that temperatures are rising at an unprecedented rate with increasingly terrifying consequences. Others say it’s just nature’s way and everything’s perfectly normal.

Of the two sparring sides of this debate, one is based in the communal research of the scientific community all over the globe and one is based in a scientifically inaccurate and invalidated study from the 1970s.

That study prompted a wave of a new ice age cometh coverage from the media, and global warming was considered a thing of the past.

In 2016, it’s very much relevant, if relevancy is measured in the number of sad British documentaries and long articles full of depressing statistics written about a subject.

Most articles focus on a global scale of climate change, which aids in general dissociation from the issue. Most Americans don’t care that global surface temperatures have increased by .43 degrees celsius (32.774 degrees fahrenheit) since 2000, according to NASA.

Washingtonians probably care that Mount Rainier, what many regard as the jewel in this state’s crown of natural wonders, and the surrounding Cascades are being directly affected.

The average mountain snowpack in the Cascades has declined at 73 percent of the sites studied, with spring runoff occurring earlier each year, according to the Washington State Department of Ecology.

Former Pierce College physics professor Les Urich has hiked the trails of Mount Rainier National Park for decades. He’s noticed definite shrinkage in the mountain’s renowned glaciers. And it’s not just Urich.

According to the WSDE, mountain glaciers in the Cascades have lost 18 to 32 percent of their total volume since 1983 and 53 glaciers have disappeared altogether since 1984. Washington’s ecosystem can’t recover from such a loss in time to avoid adverse effects.

Some might have noticed that wildfires have been on the rise over the recent years, with local TV coverage full of vast expanses being roasted by stories tall flames. The numbers confirm these observations, with the average number of wildfires larger than 500 acres per year from six in the 1970s to 21 in the 2000s.

Some might assume that all these fires and reduced snowpack might lead to a lower sea levels, but it’s the opposite.

Washington has more than 2,300 miles of coastline, and rising sea levels have led to erosion of coastal areas and eventual complete submersion. In 100 years, Washington’s coast could be nearly unrecognizable to someone growing up now.

Besides rising to off-putting levels, the Pacific provides yet another example of the effects man has on its environment: ocean acidification.

Ocean acidification is what happens when human activities introduce too much carbon dioxide to the ocean’s ecosystem, and the reason Washington residents should consider caring about it is because shellfish can’t produce their calcium rich shells if the acidic waters won’t allow them to develop.  These fish aren’t only the pricier items at dockside seafood houses meant for human consumption, but are a pivotal part of the ocean’s food chain.

Washington has some of the most biodiverse ecosystems in the United States. It has a rainforest, two major mountain ranges, a desert and, of course, the Sound. Most Washingtonians grow up along its vibrant coastlines, under its heavy grey clouds that made the puddles they jumped in. Future generations only experiencing these places through the memories of their parents is quite possibly the new reality. There’s no going back.

The Puyallup Post is the award-winning news media of Pierce College Puyallup in Puyallup, Washington. Copyright The Puyallup Post 2018. Find us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Youtube @thepuyalluppost

Hannah Pederson

Climate change in Washington state

by Hannah Pederson time to read: 2 min