Extreme weather & climate

Climate change could lead to more frequent and extreme weather events, such as floods, coastal storm surges, droughts, and heat waves. We are working with scientists and communities in Washington to identify risks and take action to preserve water resources, shorelines, air quality, and other critical resources for future generations.

Neighborhood in Washington with flooded streets. Water near doorways of homes.

Increased damage costs and disruptions

Washington’s roads, bridges, ports, rail, power and communication transmission systems, and communities face increased risk due to extreme storms, flooding, erosion, landslides, sea level rise, and storm surges.

Warmer temperatures increase the likelihood that extreme weather will occur more often, last longer, and be more intense in the future. Our Integrated Climate Response Strategy addresses issues related to extreme weather and other climate change impacts.

More frequent and severe heat waves

Excessive heat puts people at risk for heat-related illnesses, damages crops and livestock, and strains the power grid. It reduces spring snowpack and limits water available for people, fish, agriculture, energy production, and also harms water quality.

Weather can change drastically in the Pacific Northwest day by day and year to year. Over time, scientists have observed trends toward more frequent and extreme weather, such as heavy rainfall and heat waves.

Emergency responder silhouetted against a hillside wildfire in the background.

Carlton Complex wildfire in 2014

Larger and more intense wildfires

Wildfires put people, property and homes at risk, damage ecosystems, cause harmful air pollution, and hurt the economy. Washington has experienced devastating wildfires over the past several years.

More frequent and severe drought

Droughts can hurt crops and livestock, and stress water supplies for fish, humans, and hydropower production. Washington had a severe “snowpack drought” in 2015. Warmer temperatures meant more mountain precipitation fell as rain instead of snow.

Teanaway River bed dried up because of drought. Near Cle Elum, Washington.

Teanaway River near Cle Elum, Washinton during the 2015 drought.

Heavier downpours

Heavy rainfall puts people and infrastructure at risk from flooding, damages crops and soil, and contaminates water bodies. In Puget Sound, structures valued at approximately $29 billion are located in flood hazard areas, placing them at risk of flood damage.

More intense coastal flooding

Rising sea levels, combined with more extreme weather, increases the risks of intense coastal flooding and erosion. Ports, rail, highways, wastewater treatment plants, and other coastal infrastructure could require costly retrofits or relocation to accommodate rising sea levels and stronger coastal storms.

House in Cowlitz River floating down stream due to flooding.

Cowlitz River in 2008.