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A conversation about our warming climate and its effects on the Puget Sound area

“Climate” refers to the average weather conditions in an area over a long period of time, usually 30-years. Our weather and climate have been warming over time. As our region’s climate warms, more precipitation will fall as rain than snow. This means watersheds that were snow-dominated are likely to become more rain-dominated or have a mix of rain and snow. Historic records show a trend of snowpack melting earlier, resulting in higher peak stream flows earlier in winter and spring. An earlier snowmelt means that less water may be available later in the season. The result would be less water overall in our streams and aquifers during summer and fall.

A warming climate will also change the frequency and intensity of rainfall events in the Puget Sound region. Scientists project wetter winters with more frequent and extreme rain events typically caused by “atmospheric rivers.” These changes are expected to increase the volume of stormwater runoff entering Puget Sound waterways.

Find out what this mean and how will it affect us

The public is invited to a “Climate Conversation”  on Wednesday, May 9th from 6:30-8:30 pm at the Olympia City Hall. As part of the conversation, Lynn Helbrecht and Jessica Halofsky will speak on Species Shifts and Habitat Changes.

Jessica Halofsky is a research ecologist with the University of Washington and is affiliated with Forest Service Pacific Northwest Research Station. Jessica received an M.S. in Forestry from Penn State and a Ph.D. in Forest Science from Oregon State University. Her research interests include fire and disturbance ecology, vegetation dynamics, and climate change (ecosystem impacts and adaptation).  Jessica pioneered one of the first climate change vulnerability assessment and adaptation projects with Olympic National Forest and Park.

Lynn Helbrecht currently serves as the Climate Change Coordinator for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, where her work revolves around developing and implementing strategies to ensure that agency activities are managing for a changing climate. Recent projects include adopting a new agency policy for climate change, completing a climate vulnerability assessment for 286 species of concern that face the risk of extinction across Washington; and research to integrate future streamflow changes into the design of culverts for fish passage.  Her talk will highlight how climate is expected to affect fish and wildlife, and also explore some of the challenges climate change poses for natural resource managers.

Our final talk of the series, Effects of Wildfire and Climate, will take place on Wednesday, June 13th from 6:30-8:30 pm at the Olympia City Hall and will feature Josh Halofsky. Josh is a research scientist with the Washington State Department of Natural Resources. His talk will explore the past, present and possible future of Western Washington forests through a climate and wildfire lens.

To register for these talks, visit and click on “register”. For more information, contact Michelle at 

About the Olympia Stream Team

Since 1990, the Olympia Stream Team has led local stream cleanup efforts, put on educational workshops about wetland and aquatic habitats and trainings about biological monitoring, among other things. The Stream Team covers Olympia, Lacey, Tumwater and Thurston County. and emphasizes community engagement and partnerships with groups, such as the Native Plant Salvage Project. To volunteer with the Stream Team and learn more about projects and events, visit

Michelle Stevie is a habitat biologist and Stream Team coordinator.


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