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Warm Winter Is Harbinger of Winters to Come

Winter weather in Spokane
Paige Browning
Spokane Public Radio

A noted Washington State climatologist believes this snowless, warmish winter is good for at least one thing -  a grim forecast of Inland Northwest winters to come half a century from now. University of Washington climate specialist Cliff Mass said we don't need a time machine to experience what winters will be like on the downslope of the 21st century.

Mass said we're living it right now, experiencing conditions that will be typical 60 and 70 years from now. His UW Climate Impacts Group has published a new report showing predicted temperature changes. including the most and least optimistic projections. Mass said he believes warming will occur in the middle range, roughly 4.5 degrees Fahrenheit through about 2070.

Already, he noted, this winter has been about 4 degrees warmer than normal. And snowpack measurements are dismal, especially in the Cascades - some as low as 9 percent of average.

Remote measuring stations run by the Natural Resources Conservation Service show anemic snow levels in most of the Columbia River basin. And while rainfall has been about average, the lack of snow may spell trouble for warm dry months this summer.

Mass said the lack of snow in future years will hurt fish and create serious problems for agriculture in the Yakima basin. And he said Snoqualmie Summit will be a distant memory as a skiing venue.

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