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Effects of Climate Change on Water Quality in the Yaquina Estuary, Oregon

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  • As part of a larger study to examine the effect of climate change (CC) on estuarine resources, we simulated the effect of rising sea level, alterations in river discharge, and increasing atmospheric temperatures on water quality in the Yaquina Estuary. Due to uncertainty in the effects of climate change, initial model simulations were performed for different steady river discharge rates that span the historical range in inflow, and for a range of increases in sea level and atmospheric temperature. Model simulations suggest that in the central portion of the estuary (19 km from mouth), a 60-cm increase in sea level will result in a 2-3 psu change in salinity across a broad range of river discharges. For the oligohaline portion of the estuary, salinity increases associated with a rise in sea level of 60 cm are only apparent at low river discharge rates (< 50 m3 s-1). Simulations suggest that the water temperatures near the mouth of the estuary will decrease due to rising sea level, while water temperatures in upriver portions of the estuary will increase due to rising atmospheric temperatures. We present results which demonstrate how the interaction of changes in river discharge, rising sea level, and atmospheric temperature associated with climate change produce non-linear patterns in the response of estuarine salinity and temperature, which vary with location inside the estuary and season. We also will discuss the importance of presenting results in a manner that incorporates uncertainty in climate projections.
  • Presented at The Oregon Water Conference, May 24-25, 2011, Corvallis, OR.
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