Longer, hotter summers. Rising sea levels. Shriveling glaciers.
You don’t have to be a scientist to understand that climate change is happening. Whether it’s a temporary blip or a long-term shift remains to be seen, but there’s no doubt that the world’s weather is in flux.
Rather than suffer a hot August inside your air-conditioned home, why not step out and get a look at the signs of climate change in action. It’s not exactly happening right before our eyes, but there are places you can head to see what might be in store if the world keeps on warming up.
Hike through a wildfire area
Various organizations, including the National Wildlife Federation, have pointed out that climate change from global warming — and the resulting hotter, longer and drier summers — will likely increase the risk of wildfires. Fires are already a big part of summers in the Northwest, and you can see the impacts of one up close with a hike up the Mazama Trail on Mount Hood. The 7.4-mile roundtrip hike climbs up through an area burned out by the Dollar Lake fire in 2011. It passes fire-scarred trees with blackened bark, but it also goes through the lush vegetation and wildflowers that have already begun the natural work of rebuilding the forest.
Hike along the rising ocean
Researchers at Oregon State University have found that it doesn’t take much of an increase in global mean temperatures to cause sea levels to rise dramatically — and it may already be happening. You won’t be able to see a difference yet, but a hike out to Cape Lookout offers jaw-dropping views of the ocean nonetheless. You can also hike to the top of Neahkahnie Mountain and gaze south toward the seaside town of Manzanita and conjure up what it might look like with the ocean lapping away 20 feet higher than it is today.
Hike to a shrinking glacier
Portland mountaineering club, the Mazamas, did some scientific research on Mount Hood’s glaciers back in the early 1900s, including taking photographs of them. About 100 years later, in 2001, a geography professor from Central Washington University named Karl Lillquist retook the glacier photographs from the same vantage points for comparison. The results were startling. In some cases, the ice in the earlier image had retreated so far up the mountain that it was no longer visible in the modern-day picture. Lillquist calculated that Hood’s largest glacier, the Eliot, had receded more than 2,500 feet up the mountain over the course of the 20th century. That massive sheet of ice is still impressive to behold on the short 2.1-mile roundtrip hike to the Eliot moraine on Hood’s north side.
Stroll along warming river waters
The Northwest’s storied salmon need cool waters to make their return to their home rivers and streams. This year, due to a paltry snowpack and hot summer weather, they’re not finding what they need. Instead, thousands of sockeye salmon are sick or dying in water that’s close to five degrees higher than the 10-year average. You might catch a glimpse of some of these struggling swimmers at the Chittenden Locks in Seattle or out along the Columbia River either at the Bonneville Dam or a little farther upstream near the Little White Salmon River.