Rogue Valley farmer, scientists wonder if warm winter is the new normal

Mild winters will lengthen the growing season but also constrain amount of usable water while increasing potential for losses caused by fires.

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Climate change will change business throughout the state if recent patterns hold steady.

The Medford Mail Tribune’s Vicki Aldous examines how global warming could affect business in Southern Oregon: “Climate change could create winners and losers in agriculture, tourism, forestry, housing and other sectors.”

Aldous interviewed Fry Family Farms co-owner Steve Frys, who said his growing season would be extended, but that farms without plentiful access to water could be hurt by drier winters and hot, fiery summers.

Warm daytime temperatures in mid-February triggered what may turn out to be the earliest peach and pear tree bloom on record in the Rogue Valley. Orchard owners scrambled to deploy fans and other methods to warm trees during cold, frosty nights. From 1895 to 2011, average temperatures in the Northwest increased 1.3 degrees. Temperatures are predicted to climb 3.3 to 9.7 degrees by 2070 to 2099, as compared to 1970 to 1999, according to a 2014 National Climate Assessment produced by hundreds of experts guided by a federal advisory committee.

“The average temperature goes up and down, but the trend over the last 100 years has been up. We are in global warming,” says Medford-based National Weather Service meteorologist Ryan Sandler. “Ocean levels are rising and ice is melting. Globally, there are signs warming is occurring.”

The story examines how the warm, dry winter has affected ski areas and how it will impact the state’s growing wine industry and water distribution as the planet continues to heat up.

“A big issue is we need to manage water differently,” says Greg Jones, director of the division of business, communication and the environment of Southern Oregon University. “Now we capture snowmelt in the summer. We may need to capture more rain in the winter and hold it.”


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