Summer stream flows
Summer stream flows have been designated as a "Vital Sign" of Puget Sound health by the state of Washington's Puget Sound Partnership. "Some seasonal variation is normal, but exceptionally low flows exacerbated by development that draws water away from streams in the summer can cause problems for salmon and people," according to the Partnership. "This Vital Sign helps us track the effects of climate change and variability on flows and whether or not management actions intended to reduce withdrawals and increase recharge in developed areas are working to restore summer flows."
Source: Puget Sound Partnership
Climate models project that if carbon emmisions continue as they are now, the vast majority of watersheds feeding Puget Sound will receive more rain and far less snow by 2080, causing increased flooding and other dramatic changes to the freshwater ecosystem. We look at the past and possible future of the region's snowpack and what this might mean for salmon and other species — including humans.
Puget Sound's glaciers are melting rapidly due to climate change. The North Cascades mountains have lost about 56% of their glacial ice while estimates show that glaciers in the Olympics could be gone within the next 50 years. Scientists say salmon and other species could be hard hit as the region loses its “giant storage tank” of ice.
Can restoring the natural balance of the Nooksack River also reduce flood risks? Officials on both sides of the U.S.-Canada border are taking note as climate change raises the stakes.
This summer river flows were generally lower than in 2020. And in August, high air temperatures and low precipitation continued, following a drought emergency declaration in mid-July that affected also marine conditions. The higher-than-normal salinity anomaly which persisted during summer in Puget Sound marine water is, however, eroding away, and lower-than-normal oxygen conditions developed in Central Sound in the month of August. Many blooms and organic material were reported by citizens throughout summer, and by September many colorful blooms in bays across the region continue to be active. Patches of macro-algae and organic debris are still numerous in South and Central Sound and in Padilla Bay. Jellyfish are occurring in unusual places. While we document water quality issues, we are also showcasing the natural beauty of Puget Sound through photography.
Warming waters threaten the recovery of salmon in Puget Sound. New findings about stream temperature could help salmon survive the threats of climate change.
A 2015 report from the University of Washington provides the most comprehensive assessment to date of the expected impacts of climate change on the Puget Sound region.