In the once-cool forests of the Pacific Northwest, heat poses a new threat
This story was originally published by High Country News and is reproduced here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.
In the days after a record-breaking heat wave baked the Pacific Northwest in 2021, state and federal foresters heard reports of damaged and dying trees across Oregon and Washington. Willamette Valley Christmas tree farmers had lost up to 60 percent of their popular noble firs, while caretakers at Portland’s Hoyt Arboretum said Douglas firs, their state tree, dropped more needles than ever seen before. Timber plantations reported massive losses among their youngest trees, with some losing nearly all of that year’s plantings.
The damage was obvious even to those who weren’t tasked with looking for it. Drivers, homeowners, and tree experts alike called or sent photos of damaged redcedars, hemlocks, and spruce, particularly in coastal forests. Swaths of the landscape were so scorched it looked like a wildfire had torn through.
Some farmers and homeowners had tried to prepare, dumping water on their orchard... Read more