Sunday, December 4, 2011

What we learned at the climate conference

Notes from the Mt. Adams Climate Change Conference, 11 November 2011

Note: These are my notes of how I understood the presentations. Anything out of whack is my own misinterpretation. Please feel free to correct or inform me on anything that you may find amiss.


1. Geography of Mt. Adams Overview, presented by Darryl Lloyd: Mt. Adams is a strato-volcano, logging in at 12,276 feet. U.S.G.S. maps by Hildreth and Fiersten were used in Darryl’s presentation. Four rivers flow off Mt. Adams: The White Salmon (South), the Klickitat (East), the Lewis (West), and the Cispus (North). There are 18 conifer species on Mt. Adams; pine beetle outbreaks have occurred on three sides of the mountain. Mt. Adams has 12 glaciers. Lots of beautiful pictures in Darryl’s presentation!

2. Human Ecology, Culture, and History of Mt. Adams, presented by Cheryl Mack and Rick McClure: Mt. Adams had more mythical references than any other geographical region. William Clark thought Mr. Adams was Mt. St. Helens! A wonderful picture was done by Albert Burstadt, titled “Mt. Adams, WA.” C.E. Rusk’s book, Tales of a Western Mountaineer, is a must read about Mt. Adams. In 1905, the U.S. Forest Service was created. The first lookout on Mt. Adams was finished in 1921. In 1931, the Glacier Mining Company wanted to mine sulfur from the mountain. There was never any real mining development.

The Emergency Relief Organization was created in the 1930’s to put older Americans to work (similar to the Civilian Conservation Corp, or CCC—now, doesn’t that sound like an idea whose time has come?!?). More recreation use happened on Mt. Adams in the 1930’s. 1964—the Mt. Adams Wilderness Area , consisting of 32,400 acres, was created. In 1972, 21,000 acres of wilderness was given to the Yakama Tribe, by Richard Nixon, through executive order.

3. 20th Century Glacier Changes of Mt. Adams, from 1905 to 2008, presented by Andrew G. Fountain, Portland State University. After the Civil War, Clarence King started to do geological surveys of the West; in 1864, he undertook the first of four great survey expeditions. He identified the Whitney Glacier on Mt. Shasta. In 1872, Muir discovered the glaciers in California. Definition of a glacier: perennial snow and ice that moves!! In 1937, the Mazama Research Program undertook to do aerial surveys and photos of glaciers. The Mazama’s May 1896, Vol. 1, No. 1 publication profiled glaciers on Mt. Adams. There are 11 named glaciers on Mt. Adams, totaling 20 km2 , or 9 square miles. The Klickitat glacier’s lower part is covered by rocks and that slows any shrinkage. Based on the 1937 Mazama photo, the Klickitat glacier has shrunk. In a 1936 – 2007 photo comparison, the Mt. Adams glaciers have lost approximately 50% of their size. The Elliot and Newton Clark glaciers, on Mt. Hood, have shrunk an average 34% from 1901 to 2007.

With warmer temperatures, the summer melt will increase, increasing glacial ice loss. Winter precipitation changing from snow to rain will decrease snow fall on the glaciers.

High alpine hydrology: Mt. Adams is the source area for local waters. This matters because the glaciers are the frozen water reservoir for the area. If there is less summer water, then we can expect droughts. (Mt. Hood’s August glacier water flow was 76%, in 2007.) There will be geologic hazards if the glaciers melt. Glacial ice melt will cause debris flows. Steep banks of morains will be left exposed to the rain and then there will be more debris flow.

The future of Mt. Adams’ glaciers: glaciers will continue to retreat; reduction of run off from melting ice in late summer; increased debris flows from exposed areas.

4. The View from Treeline: Climate Change Impacts on Alpine and Subalpine Ecosystems, presented by Jereny Littell, Univ. of WA Climate Impacts Group. Alpine is the environment above the tree line. Change in precipitation would affect the types of vegetation at the treeline. Some limiting factors related to climate: temperature minimums and maximums and the growing season. Climate change might not be hard on the adult trees, but it would impact the seedlings. Temperature and precipitation can increase or decrease growth. Evidence of climate effects on the treeline: dead wood above the current treeline; observational review of modern establishment of vegetation. Sky exposure—affects radiative cooling at night and increases the chances of frost in micro-sites; affects day time sun load; photoinhibition. Successful establishment appears episodic within sites. Climate affects insect outbreaks; increased temperatures decrease time between generations. Global temperatures are still increasing. We will have wetter autumns and winters and warmer summers.

GLORIA—Global Observation Research Initiative in Alpine Environments.

Loss of white bark pine would result in caloric decrease for lots of species that depend on it for food. Cumulative impacts: There is a paper out on cumulative effects of climate change for Yellowstone Park.

Contact, Climate Impacts Group, for more info.

5. Climate Change Effects on Montane Forests: Lessons from California and Nevada, Prospects for Mt. Adams, presented by Dr. Robert Scheller, Portland State University. (His original abstract was Management Option fro Minimizing Wildfire Risk and Maximizing Carbon Storage in Western Forests under Future Climate Changes.) How climate change will affect forests: reproduction—climate and disturbance of the natural cycle; growth—CO2 and competition; mortality—climate and disturbance. Changes—temperature, water, growing season, fire weather, snow pack. There will be a decline in ecosystem services. Resilience—ability of the systems to remain in a desired state. Monoculture, habitat fragmentation, invasive species—affect the ecosystems, and not in a good way.

Southern Sierra Nevada results: fire sizes may increase dramatically due to climate change; current fuels management practices have limited effects on fires. The projections for Mt. Adams: no fire adapted forest cover; drought stress; insect outbreaks. Plan for climate resilience—develop sustainable forest plans; continuous monitoring; develop good policies—public involvement, allow science to inform policy, understand unintended consequences, prioritize; continuous collaboration—facilitates problem solving and planning.

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