Report: Warming climate will squeeze trout in Flathead River, elsewhere

2012-12-11T19:15:00Z 2014-10-03T14:24:04Z Report: Warming climate will squeeze trout in Flathead River, elsewhereBy TRISTAN SCOTT of the Missoulian missoulian.com
December 11, 2012 7:15 pm  • 

WHITEFISH – A new research paper published in Fisheries magazine explores how a warming climate is affecting trout streams in the Flathead River basin and throughout the Rocky Mountains, and urges quick action if native trout populations are to persist in diminishing cold-water habitats.

The report examines the climate histories of five river basins in the Rocky Mountains, including the Flathead River, which is home to robust populations of native bull trout and westslope cutthroat trout. In every case, stream characteristics have been adversely affected by warming trends, which have led to higher stream temperatures and habitat fragmentation.

The report’s authors include Clint Muhlfeld, an aquatic ecologist at the U.S. Geological Survey’s Glacier National Park field office, and Daniel Isaak, of the U.S. Forest Service’s Rocky Mountain Research Station in Boise, Idaho. The researchers said the retrospective assessment helps develop a trajectory for future warming based on historical trends in watersheds monitored and recorded during the past six decades.

To better understand the potential consequences, the report also offers empirical evidence of threats that already are occurring, and which will only be exacerbated by future climate change.

“We are using the past as a guide to the future,” Muhlfeld said. “We are developing predictive models to forecast changes to streams, ecosystems and species, but with this study we wanted to look at the empirical data that has already been collected throughout the western United States to see what changes have occurred in these watersheds of interest. This isn’t speculation, this is happening.”

The evidence indicates that as winter snowpack declines, spring runoff occurs earlier, peak summer flows dwindle and stream temperatures spike, trout in the western United States increasingly will be squeezed into shrinking cold-water refuges, and not all populations will survive.

“Despite the best intentions, we will not be able to preserve all populations of native trout in the Rocky Mountains this century,” the report states. “However, it should soon be possible to have the tools and information to know when and where resource commitments are best made under a given set of assumptions about future climate change.”

***

Isaak said the report, titled “The Past as Prelude to the Future for Understanding 21st-Century Climate Effects on Rocky Mountain Trout,” will help inform management decisions so that resources are used efficiently and not squandered on populations of species that are too fragmented to save.

“We are not going to be able to save all populations everywhere, and that is a pretty significant shift in our thinking,” Isaak said. “Previously we were trying to hang on to every last cutthroat population and every last bull trout population, and I don’t see that happening realistically given the direction we are going. We are going to have to make some choices and the sooner we can make those choices the better. But at the same time we need to be able to look before we leap.”

The article was published in the December edition of Fisheries magazine, a publication of the American Fisheries Society, and is available online at fisheries.org.

In addition to the Flathead River basin, the study also focused on the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, the Green River, the Rio Grande and the Boise River, and examined data recorded between 1950 and 2009.

Muhlfeld said certain actions that may offset future climate effects – habitat degradation, hybridization, rising temperatures and the threat of wildfire – include maintaining or restoring in-stream flows, increasing riparian vegetation to shade streams, and maximizing summer habitat volume.

Although bull trout are less susceptible to hybridization than cutthroat, the species is more susceptible to climate warming. Because they spawn in the fall, their egg nests, or redds, are vulnerable to scouring by high winter streamflows, which are swelling as autumn precipitation falls as rain instead of snow.

“We have some of the last of the best trout populations in the northern Rockies, but when you look under the hood it reveals some critical issues that we have to address,” Muhlfeld said. “There are existing stressors and changes happening right now that will increasingly challenge our trout populations given the future of climate change, and we’re calling for comprehensive management efforts. We are not going to save them all, but we can use these analyses to inform how we spend our money, invest our resources and direct our management.”

Reporter Tristan Scott can be reached at (406) 531-9745 or at tscott@missoulian.com.

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(12) Comments

  1. Greenland
    Report Abuse
    Greenland - December 17, 2012 9:37 am
    It's interesting that of all the things that are happening in the weather/climate news, certain things you ALWAYS read about, in big headlines no less, but any corresponding news that shows a different perspective, or just creates an overall perspective, is notably missing.
  2. Greenland
    Report Abuse
    Greenland - December 15, 2012 2:42 pm
    Badair wrote: I bet it says that the troposphere will warm while the stratosphere will cool, because that is what happens with greenhouse warming. This is in part how we know that warming isn't solar forced, .. the stratosphere would warm if the sun was driving this change. A cooling stratosphere is an expected outcome of greenhouse warming.
    ================================
    More bad news for "badair," although it is likely good news for the rest of us.

    "Most models do not replicate the size of the observed changes. On average, the models analyzed underestimate the observed cooling of the lower stratosphere and overestimate the warming of the troposphere. Although the precise causes of such differences are unclear, model biases in lower stratospheric temperature trends are likely to be reduced by more realistic treatment of stratospheric ozone depletion and volcanic aerosol forcing."

    -- "Identifying Human Influences on Atmospheric Temperature," Santer, et. al., Proceedings, National Academy of Sciences, (November 29, 2012). http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2012/11/28/1210514109.full.pdf+html

    "The mystery of recent stratospheric temperature trends," David Thompson, Dian Seidel, William Randel, Cheng Zhi Zhou, Amy Butler, Carl Mears, Albert Osso, Craig Long

    Abstract. A new data set of middle- and upper-stratospheric temperatures based on reprocessing of satellite radiances provides a view of stratospheric climate change during the period 1979–2005 that is strikingly different from that provided by earlier data sets. The new data call into question our understanding of observed stratospheric temperature trends and our ability to test simulations of the stratospheric response to emissions of greenhouse gases and ozone-depleting substances. Here we highlight the important issues raised by the new data and suggest how the climate science community can resolve them.

    Citation: Nature 491, 692–697 (29 November 2012) doi:10.1038/nature11579. http://www.arl.noaa.gov/documents/JournalPDFs/ThompsonEtal.Nature2012.pdf
  3. Greenland
    Report Abuse
    Greenland - December 13, 2012 3:11 pm
    badair: "The book you mention sounds good, I bet it says that the troposphere will warm while the stratosphere will cool, because that is what happens with greenhouse warming. This is in part how we know that warming isn't solar forced, .. the stratosphere would warm if the sun was driving this change. A cooling stratosphere is an expected outcome of greenhouse warming. Interesting research looking at a possible relationship between cooling stratosphere and the arctic oscillation, as well as longevity of space junk."
    ======================================
    I would bet you Googled furiously to attempt to sound educated on this after falling flat on "CO2 causes warming."

    Unfortunately, the far Left websites where many of you, for some reason, get your "science" from these days, is out of date.

    The Models did, indeed, predict that there would be a "hot spot" in the upper troposphere. Unfortunately, recent research shows that it is significantly less than predicted; indeed although somewhat variable, temperatures have been remarkably stable since measurements began in 1979 and happen to be at the moment below those measured in 1979. The divergence from the model predictions, and particularly from the extreme model predictions generally used to promote the "hype," are shown graphically at Figure 2 in Seidel, D. J., M. Free, and J. S. Wang (September 13, 2012), Reexamining the warming in the tropical upper troposphere: Models versus radiosonde observations, Geophys. Res. Lett., 39, L22701, doi:10.1029/2012GL053850.

    http://www.agu.org/pubs/crossref/2012/2012GL053850.shtml

    As noted in the following article, which confirms the observations, "the apparent model-observational difference for tropical upper tropospheric warming represents an important problem ...". I'll say it does; that's an understatement.

    "Discrepancies in tropical upper tropospheric warming between atmospheric circulation models and satellites" Stephen Po-Chedley and Qiang Fu, October 31, 2012, Environmental Research Letters, 7:4.

    Abstract

    Recent studies have examined tropical upper tropospheric warming by comparing coupled atmosphere–ocean global circulation model (GCM) simulations from Phase 3 of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP3) with satellite and radiosonde observations of warming in the tropical upper troposphere relative to the lower-middle troposphere. These studies showed that models tended to overestimate increases in static stability between the upper and lower-middle troposphere. We revisit this issue using atmospheric GCMs with prescribed historical sea surface temperatures (SSTs) and coupled atmosphere–ocean GCMs that participated in the latest model intercomparison project, CMIP5. It is demonstrated that even with historical SSTs as a boundary condition, most atmospheric models exhibit excessive tropical upper tropospheric warming relative to the lower-middle troposphere as compared with satellite-borne microwave sounding unit measurements. It is also shown that the results from CMIP5 coupled atmosphere–ocean GCMs are similar to findings from CMIP3 coupled GCMs. The apparent model-observational difference for tropical upper tropospheric warming represents an important problem, but it is not clear whether the difference is a result of common biases in GCMs, biases in observational datasets, or both.
  4. badair
    Report Abuse
    badair - December 12, 2012 10:48 pm
    Great that you can copy & paste from an NAS study with highly reputable people.. I am just not sure what point you are taking from the study to gain comfort that warming is somehow stalled, or won't go exponential on us? Are you aware of the fossil fuel dev, & export plans of the corporate and political leaders of north America??? you should plan for a radical increase of warming if anything, Harper & Obama will cook the world with their plans! Maybe without cfc's this time, but the radiative forcing of black (carbon) Friday's will probably make up for the lost radiative power of cfc's. (kind of joking)

    The book you mention sounds good, I bet it says that the troposphere will warm while the stratosphere will cool, because that is what happens with greenhouse warming. This is in part how we know that warming isn't solar forced, .. the stratosphere would warm if the sun was driving this change. A cooling stratosphere is an expected outcome of greenhouse warming. Interesting research looking at a possible relationship between cooling stratosphere and the arctic oscillation, as well as longevity of space junk.

    whatever, my point in commenting was pretty much to just back up the USGS (as if they need or want my help), and to try to quell a point of view that will lead us to a +4 c world. (that taxpayers will pay for)

    to end, greenhouse blanket warms troposphere while cooling stratosphere. Cooling stratosphere is NOT acting to balance the warming, in fact top of atmosphere heat budget analysis shows that more heat is coming into the system than is leaving.. Obviously!

    bye bye Holocene.

  5. Cato
    Report Abuse
    Cato - December 12, 2012 10:24 pm
    Gadfly: "I am beginning to understand the republican mind: Anything that interferes with unfettered capitalism is not believable and likely a scientific conspiracy. The republican mind can make up reality in their alternate universe, just like they do in politics, economics and social issues, but they will cook and be buffeted by super storms and live in drought too."
    ======================================
    More ad hominem attacks by people that can't discuss issues.

    In other news, Russia, Japan and Canada -- nations notoriously controlled by neanderthal Republicans -- have refused to extend the Kyoto Accord.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2010/dec/10/cancun-climate-change-conference-kyoto

    The United States, under the Obama administration, refused to join any agreement to extend the Kyoto accords, having refused to join them the first time around after a 95-0 vote in the US Senate during the Clinton Administration kept the US out of the Kyoto accords. As Gadfly astutely notes, there were 95 Republican senators in the US Senate under Republican president Clinton -- all reflecting the "Republican right-wing brain."

    In still other news, December, 2012 saw yet another all-time record set with no major hurricanes making landfall in the United States. It’s been nearly 2,560 days since the last Category 3 storm, Wilma in 2005, hit the US mainland. That’s the longest period in the record that goes back to 1900. The US also had a tornado frequency nearly 50% below the 100 year average in 2012. The Antarctic sea ice extent reached the greatest level ever recorded just two months ago.

  6. Gadfly
    Report Abuse
    Gadfly - December 12, 2012 8:41 pm
    Global Warming, Endangered Species: The Conservative Mind

    Climate change and the conservative mind, seem to reflect the republican right wing brain which also doubts evolution, probably think they are the center of the universe and the world is flat, and the earth is only less than 10,000 years old and man co-existed with dinosaurs. I have had this discussion many times. Deniers do not believe that man has anything to do with it, even if they believe there is global warming. Some do not seem to dispute the facts of global warming (record temperatures, melting icebergs, flora and fauna moving northward each year). They argue that warming is cyclical and that the earth has gone through warming periods and cooling periods before, all of which is true. However, the amount of carbon dioxide spewed forth in the atmosphere is 50 times higher than anything that has happened in the past 400,000 years. Species are threatened with extinction, 1 in 3. Species used to become extinct a few per 1000 years, now a few per 10 years. Species decimation is almost totally a man caused affair. Now global warming threatens many species and it has man’s footprint all over it. But then we have the right wing, conservative mind arguments that economics demand a suspension of EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) and ESA (Endangered Species Act) enforcement and power: Let the market respond to the need for green, alternative fuels, and they argue that we really need to exploit the wilderness remaining. Some of my friends argue that carbon dioxide is normal, natural gas, which it is. But the facts are that we are spewing forth it and other greenhouse gases exponentially since the dawn of the Industrial age (1790). Plants and animals have gradually been moving northward. The polar bear’s habitat is dwindling.

    All climate change scientists, except a fringe group few agree that global warming has man’s footprint all over it. Of 13,950 scientists’ peer reviewed climate changes studies, only 24 deny it. I have to assume that the 99% know what the deniers think they know. Readings all around the world show that temperatures have risen steadily since the Industrial Age with 2/3 of the warming since 1975 (NASA). The oceans are rising 60% faster than expected (IPCC) according to researchers in USA, France and Germany (Climate Impact Research).

    I am beginning to understand the republican mind: Anything that interferes with unfettered capitalism is not believable and likely a scientific conspiracy. The republican mind can make up reality in their alternate universe, just like they do in politics, economics and social issues, but they will cook and be buffeted by super storms and live in drought too.




  7. Cato
    Report Abuse
    Cato - December 12, 2012 6:51 pm
    "Hot movements that deal with emotional issues and ideologies may produce reputational attacks, as disagreement is transformed into distaste. By questioning the core values of their opponents, activists shift to attacks on the moral character of their rivals. Here one can examine whether personalistic attacks are more evident when the debates are more politically central. Perhaps personalized attacks are selected as a rhetorical strategy when opponents feel that they must not lose the battle. It is a strategy of the desperate."

    "Culture, Social Movements, and Protest," by Hank Johnson, (2009), Johnson is Associate Professor of Sociology at San Diego State University, USA, p. 101.

    Wow, "badair" is a walking stereotype of a self-appointed elite, who resorts instantly to ad hominem attacks, in the name of ... science.
  8. Greenland
    Report Abuse
    Greenland - December 12, 2012 4:42 pm
    Global warming in the twenty-first century: An alternative scenario

    James Hansen*†,
    Makiko Sato*‡,
    Reto Ruedy*,
    Andrew Lacis*, and
    Valdar Oinas*§

    + Author Affiliations

    *National Aeronautics and Space Administration Goddard Institute for Space Studies, ‡Center for Climate Systems Research, Columbia University Earth Institute, and §Center for Environmental Prediction, Rutgers University, 2880 Broadway, New York, NY 10025

    Abstract

    A common view is that the current global warming rate will continue or accelerate. But we argue that rapid warming in recent decades has been driven mainly by non-CO2 greenhouse gases (GHGs), such as chlorofluorocarbons, CH4, and N2O, not by the products of fossil fuel burning, CO2 and aerosols, the positive and negative climate forcings of which are partially offsetting. The growth rate of non-CO2 GHGs has declined in the past decade. If sources of CH4 and O3 precursors were reduced in the future, the change in climate forcing by non-CO2 GHGs in the next 50 years could be near zero. Combined with a reduction of black carbon emissions and plausible success in slowing CO2 emissions, this reduction of non-CO2 GHGs could lead to a decline in the rate of global warming, reducing the danger of dramatic climate change. Such a focus on air pollution has practical benefits that unite the interests of developed and developing countries. However, assessment of ongoing and future climate change requires composition-specific long-term global monitoring of aerosol properties.
    ============

    Incidentally, Genius, CO2 in the atmosphere also contributes to cooling. It is a well-known aspect of atmospheric behavior specifically described in "The Physics of Atmospheres," by John Houghton (Cambridge University Press, 2002). The title of the interesting chapter is "radiative cooling by carbon dioxide emission," at page. 48.

    The higher the atmospheric content of CO2, the more radiation of heat from the upper edge of the atmosphere, cooling the Earth.


  9. badair
    Report Abuse
    badair - December 12, 2012 2:37 pm
    Ever notice just how confident the climate deniers are? Is it clear to anyone else that the only conspiracy theory being played upon here is the one that says climate is NOT warming, and that these are just natural cycles? No one cherry picks data like a climate denier, just start your analysis at the top of an el nino and end it at the bottom of a la nina... The statistical methods used by this crowd could probably wipe out poverty within the US, and fix the unemployment numbers at the same time.

    fyi, CO2 traps heat in the atmosphere, this is not up for debate last time I checked.

    Another great study by USGS, with all the typical detractions from the highly educated redneck elite.
  10. FJ
    Report Abuse
    FJ - December 12, 2012 1:29 pm
    Global climate change is normal in geologic time frames. We have been warming since the passing of the last ice age. All species evolve or become extinct during the climate swings of the earth. What will we be saying when we move into an ice age? Burn fuels to create warming? Mankind will not change the climate swings we may alter the process slightly. We do need to not poison the planet but we need to not be so dramatic about it. I would rather fish for small mouth bass than trout anyway they taste better
  11. Greenland
    Report Abuse
    Greenland - December 12, 2012 11:12 am
    The Arctic Grayling was once ubiquitous; now it's natural range in the contiguous US is limited to the Big Hole River, and the USFWS has pulled the plug on protection efforts because, as a boreal species dependent on cold water, the past 10,000 years of warming has made preservation efforts pointless.

    As far as the article is concerned, there is a significant cherry-picking problem contained in it which has been specifically identified by climate researchers.

    The "Fish" article": "in addition to the Flathead River basin, the study also focused on the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, the Green River, the Rio Grande and the Boise River, and examined data recorded between 1950 and 2009."

    The choice of 1950 as a baseline year has been shown on one of the West's major mountain ranges, the Cascades as a problematic choice. Choosing 1945, for instance, yields significantly different and less dramatic results; the longer the time period used, the less significant the observed changes become. A shorter time period, using 1976 as the base year, shows an increase in snowpack.

    "A New Look at Snowpack Trends in the Cascade Mountains," Mark T. Stoelinga1, Mark D. Albright, and Clifford F. Mass, Department of Atmospheric Sciences, University of Washington, Journal of Climate (2010)23:10, 2473-2491.

    "However, some findings in these studies make the picture less clear, both in terms of the
    magnitude and cause of the Cascade snowpack decline. Two studies that examined Cascade snowpack trends starting prior to 1945 (Hamlet et al. 2005; Mote et al. 2008) found much smaller losses than trends beginning around 1950. Hamlet et al. (2005), using hydrological model simulations, found that spring snowpack in the Pacific Northwest has declined only 5% from 1916 to 2003. Also, trends in Cascade snowpack since 1976, when global temperature records have shown the greatest warming, show no loss or even a slight gain (Mote 2003; Mote et al. 2005, 2008)."

    http://www.atmos.washington.edu/cliff/Snowpack.pdf

    As noted, the choice of a baseline year is critical. The year 1950 as a choice offers the largest snowpack change because 1950 was a very heavy snow year historically. It wasn't typical, and papers using that as a beginning year exaggerate significantly apparent -- and mostly illusory -- "declines" in snowpack.

  12. Roger
    Report Abuse
    Roger - December 12, 2012 8:56 am
    Ho hum - just more climate alarmism. There's no scientific reason to expect that warming will continue indefinitely, since it never has in the past, and the climate changes independently of atmospheric carbon dioxide levels. There's been no warming in the past 16 years or so.
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