New climate change report: Oregon will see warmer days, larger fires

Special Reports

“Average annual temperature in Oregon is increasing and is likely to continue increasing, especially in summer.”

FILE – In this Sept. 11, 2020 file photo a trike stands near the burnt remains of a building destroyed by a wildfire near the Lake Detroit Market in Detroit, Ore. The blaze was one of multiple fires that burned across the state last month. Three Pacific Northwest law firms have filed a class action lawsuit against Pacific Power and its parent company, Portland-based PacifiCorp, alleging that the power company failed to shut down its power lines despite a historic wind event and extremely dangerous wildfire conditions. (Mark Ylen/Albany Democrat-Herald via AP, File)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Oregon will see more days warmer than 90 degrees, more large wildfires, and will experience more frequent and severe droughts if the climate continues to change, according to a new report released Tuesday. 

The Oregon Climate Change Research Institute’s biennial report said the effects of a changing climate continue to significantly affect Oregonians. 

“Average annual temperature in Oregon is increasing and is likely to continue increasing, especially in summer. And the intensity of major storms is likely to increase, which may lead to more flooding,” said Dr. Erica Fleishman, director of OCCRI, which is housed in the College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Science at Oregon State University. 

Although the report does warn that the number of large fires throughout the state and throughout the West will increase as the climate changes, it also says prescribed fire may help reduce the size and intensity of future fires. 

“The report complements key messages in Oregon’s draft 2020 Climate Change Adaptation Framework that both mitigation and adaptation actions can help Oregon’s residents reduce the short- and long-term risks of climate change, while revitalizing the state’s economy and increasing environmental equity,” Fleishman said. 

The report also highlights that racially marginalized people of color, immigrants and refugees, people experiencing low incomes or poverty, underinvested rural communities, young and old populations, pregnant people, those with pre-existing conditions, and people with disabilities are more likely to be exposed to climate extremes and associated health impacts. It suggests that investing in climate change mitigation or adaptations within low-income and racially-marginalized communities can help prevent worsening existing inequities and could potentially improve health and social equity. 

As an example, the report points out that asthma hospitalizations in Oregon disproportionately affect Black, Pacific Islander, and Indigenous people compared to other racial or ethnic groups. Exposure to wildfire smoke compounds this existing disparity. 

The new report also says climate change is impacting Oregon’s infrastructure, such as the pipes and treatment plants that deal with sewage and stormwater during winter, and electricity supplies during increasingly hot summers. 

The report also points out that the number and intensity of heavy precipitation events, particularly in winter, are projected to increase throughout the current century and snowpack around the state will likely melt more quickly. 

It says the frequency of days warmer than 90 degrees will increase throughout the 21st century. 

The report says over the next 50 to 100 years, area burned by wildfires is projected to increase substantially, initially east of the Cascades, and then on the west side. 

As sea level rises, coastal storms and high tides are also likely to increase. By 2050, the relative sea level at Newport is likely to rise between 0.6 and 1.8 feet and at least one flood is likely to exceed 4 feet above the mean high tide. 

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