A Bitterroot Climate Science Forum Dec. 6 in Hamilton will discuss the recently released Montana Climate Assessment and potential impacts to forestry, water, and agriculture.
The Montana Institute on Ecosystems and the Montana State University Extension in Ravalli County have teamed up for a local viewpoint at this presentation. Agriculture and Horticulture Extension Agent Patrick Mangan said the institute is a partnership between MSU and the University of Montana.
“The principal researchers for the climate assessment were housed at both UM and MSU,” Mangan said. “They went through a two-year process to do the research, crunch the data, and plug it into models to figure out where we’ve been for the last 30 years for as many things as we have measured relating to climate. The scientists use that information with climate models to discover what climate predictions can be made about different zones in Montana – including western Montana.”
The forum is ideal for local stakeholders directly related to a job or industry that relies on climate, water, forestry, or agriculture, and to become part of the conversation.
“It would be good to attend the forum even if you’re just interested in western Montana’s climate,” Mangan said. “We’ll look at where we’ve been for the last 30 years and what some of the models are predicting for the next 30 years. They are predicting forward up to 100 years and the focus of the climate assessment was to document the past and use that information to get a window into the future.”
Scientist used data on temperature, precipitation, number of days above 90 degrees, frost-free days in the summer, and more recorded climate information, in 21 different climate models. The models were in agreement. The next step was a literature review to read what climate scientists had been writing about western Montana.
“When they found agreement with the date models and with the literature review, they were able to say we have reliable data and agreement,” Mangan said.
The climate assessment was done in four themes for the climate report, and extrapolated to consider agriculture and water impacts.
“How we get our water through precipitation has big impacts throughout the valley on recreation, fishing, wildlife, agriculture, and forestry,” Mangan said.
The team from the Montana Institute on Ecosystems will introduce the report and talk about their findings. Four local specialists will follow the threads of the report to make the information personal, local, and immediate.
Zach Miller, superintendent of the Western Agricultural Research Center, will talk about the opportunity for different crops and agriculture systems as growing days get longer and temperatures get higher.
Gil Gale, U.S. Forest Service Invasive Species Program leader for the Bitterroot National Forest, will talk about invasive species and how they move as we get more frost-free days and warmer temperatures.
Dan Huls, owner of Huls Dairy, will talk about water as a resource and management plans.
Byron Bonnie, community forester for the Bitter Root Resource Conservation and Development Area, will talk about wildfires, forest fires, and living with fire.
“The climate assessment was done for the whole state and while they chopped the state into seven like climate zones, part of having local stakeholders is to describe in a little more detail of 'Here’s what we think will happen in western Montana,'” Mangan said. “Specifically, to start a conversation on a local level.”
Bruce Maxwell, lead author of the agriculture chapter and co-director of the Montana Institute on Ecosystems at Montana State University, said the 2017 climate assessment can be a tool to help Montanans understand past patterns in various regions and use the climate projections as a tool to inform long-range planning as a prudent business practice.
The free Bitterroot Climate Science Forum is from 6 to 8 p.m., at the Bedford Building, 223 So. Second St., in the upstairs presentation hall and is open to the public. For more information on the Montana Institute on Ecosystems, visit online montanaioe.org. For information about MSU-Extension in Ravalli County visit online msuextension.org/ravalli/.