The Klamath Basin of southern Oregon and northern California is rich in history, culture, and natural resources. This report explores how the local communities and natural resources of the Klamath Basin are expected to be affected by climate change and identifies approaches to preparing for such changes.
Many of the impacts from climate change are already becoming apparent, such as an increasing average global temperature, rising sea levels, earlier snow melt, loss of snow pack, and changing precipitation patterns and storm frequency. Without severe cuts in greenhouse-gas emissions, these impacts and others will continue to accelerate and negatively affect local communities and natural resources. While efforts to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases are essential to prevent the most severe impacts, we must also take steps to prepare for the impacts of climate change already inevitable due to emissions that have previously been released.
This project is the result of a collaborative effort. The USDA Forest Service Pacific Northwest Research Station developed projections for the potential future climate of the Klamath Basin. The University of Oregon’s Climate Leadership Initiative and the GEOS Institute presented these projections to local leaders and experts in the Klamath Basin through a series of workshops. Leaders and experts used these climate projections to identify likely changes to natural (aquatic and terrestrial species and habitats), built (infrastructure), economic (agriculture, forestry, business), human (health, education, emergency services), and tribal (resources of cultural and indigenous community importance) systems. Finally, recommended strategies and actions were developed to prepare communities and natural resources for those changes.
Three global climate models (CSIRO, MIROC, and HADCM) and a vegetation model (MC1) were used to project future temperature, precipitation, vegetation, runoff, and wildfire in the Klamath Basin. The three climate models projected an increase in annual average temperatures compared to baseline temperatures (2.1°F to 3.6°F [1.1°C to 2.0°C] increase by mid-century and 4.6°F to 7.2°F [2.5°C to 4.6°C] by late century). Summer warming was projected to be greater than warming during other seasons. Projections for annual average precipitation ranged from an overall reduction of 11% to an increase of 24%. All three models agreed that future summers are likely to be drier (a decrease of 3-37%) than past summers. Vegetation model results indicated a shift in growing conditions in the Upper Basin that could favor grasslands in areas currently suitable for sagebrush and juniper. In the Lower Basin, conditions are projected to favor oaks and madrone over maritime conifer forest (redwood, Douglas fir, and Sitka spruce), which are projected to decline. The vegetation model also projects 11-22% greater area burned by wildfire by late century.
Through a series of workshops in the Klamath Basin, participants made recommendations for how to prepare for the changes expected under climate change. While recommendations were made for each specific system, many recommendations provide co-benefits across multiple systems and sectors. The strategies and actions suggested by workshop participants are likely to increase the resilience and resistance of local communities and natural resources to climate change. A summary of recommendations includes the following:
Heat waves, severe precipitation events, and prolonged drought are all expected to increase as a result of climate change. The recommendations made by local leaders and experts represent a sample of potential actions and strategies that could be taken in the Klamath Basin to prepare for climate change. By increasing the resilience of local communities in the Klamath Basin to changes brought on by climate change, the potential negative impacts of climate change would be reduced, thereby increasing the potential for maintaining current quality-of-life in the Basin.
Find out more about how ClimateWise can help your community.
Receive the latest news from ClimateWise
ClimateWise grows its programs through the generous support of caring people who believe we can and must do a better job addressing climate change for our children and those who will follow.