Lake Whatcom Climate Change

Climate Change refers to changes in long-term trends in the average climate. Both natural variability and human activity cause changes in average temperatures and precipitation. Today change is occurring at an unprecedented rate as a result of growing greenhouse gas emissions from cars, power plants, and other human activities The increase in global average temperatures results in record melting of polar ice, and droughts and storms of increasing frequency and intensity.

As a result of climate change, Washington state is predicted to see…

  • An increase in annual temperatures of between 2.0 and 5.3°F by the end of the century (IPCC models)
  • A decrease in snowpack as more precipitation falls as rain instead of snow
  • A decrease in the glacial contribution to stream flow
  • Altered timing and amount of stream flows
  • An increase in stream temperatures which will reduce the quality and extent of freshwater salmon habitat
  • An increase in extreme high precipitation events in the Puget Sound area resulting in greater flooding risk for low-lying areas
  • An increase in the area burned by wildfires as a result of higher summer temperatures and lower summer precipitation
  • Sea level rise and shoreline erosion

Effects of climate change on Lake Whatcom may include…

  • Increased stormwater runoff flushing more contaminants and sediments into the lake
  • Higher water temperatures combined with the high level of nutrients in the lake will result in increased algal blooms on the lake surface and exacerbate dissolved oxygen deficits in the lake
  • Higher water temperatures may render the lake unsuitable for cold water fish species, like Kokanee salmon.
  • Higher average air and water temperatures will increase the lake’s vulnerability to invasion by aquatic invasive species that are more able to adapt to a changing environment
  • Changes in precipitation amounts or timing could affect lake levels.
  • Increased precipitation could increase flood risk for low-lying areas of the watershed

What can I do to help?

  • Retrofit your home and yard to reduce the flow of stormwater, and contaminants, from your property to the lake
  • Support retention and planting of plants that capture CO2
  • Reduce your vehicle use and carpool, take the bus, or ride your bike
  • Conserve energy and water

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