SHORTS: Fall Chinook Die-Off In Oregon River; NOAA Fines Farmer For Killing Steelhead; WDOE Director Resigns; Rapid Arctic Warming; Indo-Pacific Ocean Warming, Less Rainfall West Coast

* Fall Chinook Die-Off In Oregon Coast River Prompts Fishing Closure

A recent die-off of fall Chinook salmon in the Wilson River on the Oregon coast near Tillamook has prompted fishery managers to close the river to all salmon angling, effective Dec. 7 – 31.

The closure is from the confluence with Blind Slough (in tidewater at river mile 0.5) upstream to Jordan Creek. The river upstream of Jordan Creek is already closed to salmon angling by permanent rule. Angling for steelhead is unaffected by this change and remains open under permanent regulations.

Extended low water conditions have led to concentrations of fall Chinook in the lower Wilson River. These conditions are conducive to the spread of cryptobia, a naturally occurring parasite.

In response to reports from the public of dead, pre-spawned adult fall Chinook, ODFW surveyed the lower river earlier this week. A minimum of 200 dead adult Chinook were discovered.

Evidence of scavenging and deeper holes with limited visibility likely means the number of mortalities is higher than observed. Examination of Chinook carcasses by ODFW Fish Health staff confirmed the presence of cryptobia.

The closure is necessary to protect remaining fall Chinook adults to allow them to reach spawning grounds, according to Robert Bradley, district fish biologist for ODFW’s North Coast Watershed District.

“The fall Chinook run is below average to begin with this year, so this substantial loss of fish could affect recruitment of fish for future years,” said Bradley. In addition, current river conditions are expected to continue for at least a week, which is likely to contribute to further loss of potential Chinook spawners from the parasite. Although cryptobia is present in other basins, no substantial mortalities have been observed in other rivers on the north coast to date.

For more information about North Coast fisheries, including regulation updates, visit ODFW’s online fishing reports at


* Washington Department Of Ecology Director To Leave End Of Year

Maia Bellon, Washington Department of Ecology Director, is stepping down at the end of the year.

“After 25 years of state service, and nearly seven years as Ecology’s director, I have made the decision to step down at the end of this year. Arriving at this choice has been bittersweet, but I’m confident that it’s the right time for me to make a professional and personal change.

“My current plans are to enjoy some time off reconnecting with my family and friends. I then intend to dust off my law degree and try my hand at private practice focusing on environmental law and policy.

“There is much I will miss, but what I especially look forward to is spending more time with my daughter and her growing list of sports and other high school events that I don’t want to miss.

“It has been an incredible honor to serve Gov. Jay Inslee and lead Ecology’s mission of environmental protection and restoration in Washington state.”

Statement from Governor Jay Inslee:

“Maia has been a resolute leader who has made decisions based on science and data, listened to impacted communities and worked tirelessly to protect our state’s water, air and lands,” Gov. Jay Inslee said. “The work she has done at the Department of Ecology will benefit Washingtonians for generations to come. While she will greatly be missed, I know that whatever challenges Maia takes on next will be met with the same dedication and passion that she has brought to state service.”


* NOAA Assesses Penalty Against Washington Farmer For Killing ESA-Listed Steelhead

A Bellingham farmer has been assessed $7,500 in civil penalties for discharging animal waste into a restored creek, killing native Puget Sound steelhead, a threatened species.

The NOAA Office of General Counsel last month assessed the penalty against Harold Carbee for discharging organic waste into Anderson Creek near Bellingham in May 2018. Anderson Creek supports steelhead and salmon and flows into the Nooksack River, a drinking water source for the city of Lynden.

NOAA and Carbee settled the case for a reduced penalty of $6,750.

The case began when a local citizen reported wastewater flowing into the creek, and became a joint investigation by NOAA Fisheries’ Office of Law Enforcement, the Ferndale Police Department, Nooksack Indian Tribe, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, and the Washington Department of Ecology. The penalty was issued under provisions of the Endangered Species Act that allow for civil penalties for violations.

The spill into the creek lasted at least 12 hours. The investigation found more than 300 dead fish including 89 threatened steelhead smolts, coho salmon, and other species. The spill affected an area of the creek with nine steelhead nests, or redds.

Anderson Creek has been the focus of some $9 million in restoration funding for two new bridge crossings that improve passage for threatened Puget Sound steelhead.

“We owe it to everyone who works on salmon and steelhead recovery to make sure their hard work does not go to waste,” said Greg Busch, Assistant Director for NOAA Fisheries’ Office of Law Enforcement, West Coast Division. “Restored habitat such as Anderson Creek is the key to the recovery of these fish, and we need to protect it.”


* Study Reveals How Rapidly Arctic Is Warming, Examines Consequences

With 2019 on pace as one of the warmest years on record, a major new study from the University of California, Davis, reveals how rapidly the Arctic is warming and examines global consequences of continued polar warming.

The study, published this week in the journal Science Advances reports that the Arctic has warmed by 0.75 C in the last decade alone. By comparison, the Earth as a whole has warmed by nearly the same amount, 0.8 C, over the past 137 years.   

“Many of the changes over the past decade are so dramatic they make you wonder what the next decade of warming will bring,” said lead author Eric Post, a UC Davis professor of climate change ecology. “If we haven’t already entered a new Arctic, we are certainly on the threshold.”

The comprehensive report represents the efforts of an international team of 15 authors specializing in an array of disciplines, including the life, earth, social and political sciences. They documented widespread effects of warming in the Arctic and Antarctic on wildlife, traditional human livelihoods, tundra vegetation, methane release, and loss of sea- and land ice. They also examined consequences for the polar regions as the Earth inches toward 2 C warming, a commonly discussed milestone.

“Under a business-as-usual scenario, the Earth as a whole may reach that milestone in about 40 years,” said Post. “But the Arctic is already there during some months of the year, and it could reach 2 C warming on an annual mean basis as soon as 25 years before the rest of the planet.”

The study illustrates what 2 C of global warming could mean for the high latitudes: up to 7 C warming for the Arctic and 3 C warming for the Antarctic during some months of the year.

The authors say that active, near-term measures to reduce carbon emissions are crucial to slowing high-latitude warming, especially in the Arctic.

Post emphasizes that major consequences of projected warming in the absence of carbon mitigation are expected to reach beyond the polar regions. Among these are sea level rise resulting from rapid melting of land ice in the Arctic and Antarctic, as well as increased risk of extreme weather, deadly heat waves, and wildfire in parts of the Northern Hemisphere.

“What happens in the Arctic doesn’t stay in the Arctic,” said co-author Michael Mann, a distinguished professor of atmospheric sciences at Penn State. “The dramatic warming and melting of Arctic ice is impacting the jet stream in a way that gives us more persistent and damaging weather extremes.”

Co-authoring institutions include Pennsylvania State University; Aarhus University; University of Oxford; University of Lapland; University of Colorado, Boulder; Chicago Botanic Garden; Dartmouth College; University of Washington; Umea University; University College London; U.S. Arctic Research Commission; Harvard University; and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Funding for the study was provided by grants from the U.S. National Science Foundation, Academy of Finland and JPI Climate, National Geographic Society, Natural Environment Research Council, the Swedish Research Council, U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration, and NOAA.


* Indo-Pacific Ocean Warming Leading To Less Rainfall On U.S. West Coast

New research by NOAA and a visiting scientist from India shows that warming of the Indo-Pacific Ocean is altering rainfall patterns from the tropics to the United States, contributing to declines in rainfall on the United States west and east coasts.

In a study, published last week in the journal Nature, researchers report a doubling in the size of a warm pool of water spanning the western Pacific and eastern Indian Ocean in recent years. This Indo-Pacific warm pool in what is already the warmest part of the global ocean is expanding each year by an area the size of California.

The expansion is changing a key weather and climate feature called the Madden-Julian Oscillation, which is characterized by a band of rain clouds that move over the tropical ocean from the Seychelles off Africa toward India and into the Pacific Ocean, influencing everything from monsoons in India to heat waves and flooding in the United States.

The changes in the behavior of the MJO have brought a decline in rainfall to the central Pacific, the west and east coasts of the United States, north India, east Africa and the Yangtze basin in China. These same changes are causing an increase in rainfall over northern Australia, the Amazon basin, southwest Africa and Southeast Asia, researchers conclude.

“NOAA is part of coordinated international efforts to extend the range of accurate weather forecasts out to lead times of two to four weeks and the MJO is one of the most important keys to the success of this enterprise,” said Michael McPhaden, a senior scientist at NOAA’s Pacific Marine Environmental Lab and co-author of the study. “Our research provides a critical benchmark for determining which computer models to trust for extended range weather forecasting, based on their ability to simulate the observed behavior of the MJO in changing the climate.”

Though the entire Indo-Pacific Ocean has warmed, the warmest waters are over the west Pacific, creating a temperature contrast that drives moisture from the Indian Ocean to the west, enhancing cloud formation. This has changed the life cycle of the MJO. The length of time these clouds linger over the Indian Ocean has shrunk by four days from an average of 19 to 15 days. Over the west Pacific, the clouds now reside five more days. It is this change in the residence of MJO-driven clouds that is altering weather patterns around the globe, researchers found.

“Climate model simulations indicate that continued warming of the Indo-Pacific Ocean is highly likely, which may further intensify these changes in global rainfall patterns,” said Roxy Mathew Koll, lead author of the study with the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology who worked with McPhaden while visiting PMEL for the last year. “This means that we need to enhance our ocean observational arrays to monitor these changes accurately, and update our climate models to skillfully predict the challenges presented by a warming world.”

The study is part of a collaboration between NOAA and India’s Ministry of Earth Sciences, facilitated by the National Academy of Sciences with funding from NOAA’s Climate Program Office Climate Variability and Predictability Program. In addition to McPhaden, Chidong Zhang, also of NOAA PMEL, is a co-author of the research.

More news from CBB: