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Global Warming: Cascadia’s possible future

The flooding potential of Cascadia is not only caused by sea levels backing up rivers and streams, it will be caused by a warming and melting of the permafrost. Permafrost will release vast amounts of water into our above and below ground hydrology. There will be no place untouched by these changes, no high ground, are we prepared?
Map of Cascadia during the Missoula floods
Map of Cascadia during the Missoula floods
After seeing Al Gore's new documentary "Inconvenient Truth" I started thinking about an event that created the Columbia Gorge and the Willamette Valley. It happened at the end of the last age. I want to share this with you to get a conversation started.

The point of this essay is to get discussion started about how global warming will affect people everywhere. There will be no places on the globe left untouched by these changes. Are we prepared?

Many people I know who live in the Portland area and the Willamette Valley think that as the sea levels rise we will be immune to the drastic changes. Some believe that only those living on seaboards will be displaced. However, as Gore's docu-movie and others point out. Not only are the ice caps melting but the tundra is melting (think permafrost). A huge body of fresh water is about to be released into ground water, streams and rivers, lakes, and the atmosphere. How will this affect people in the Cascadia? Aside from the affect on weather a great deal of underground water is about to be released into the biosphere. According to several sources, anyone in low-lying areas will be affected. And, people in high lying areas will find it hard to find potable water. Some say that the super-fund sites and chemical dumps that have been contained along rivers and streams and underground vaults (think the Umatilla Chemical Depot in Hermiston, Oregon or the areas of the Willamette River around North Portland) will add high level pollution to this released water. Beyond the discussion of pollution, there needs to be a discussion about water borne disease and increasing and changing insect populations.

But for now, I only want to discuss - hydrological changes - vast bodies of water moving through large geographical areas. Water moving under the top layers and across the surface of Cascadia.

This flooding potential of Cascadia is not only caused by sea levels backing up rivers and streams, it will be caused by a warming and melting of the permafrost.

The events of the past I would like to focus on in this essay are called the Missoula Floods or the Bretz Floods. What is the relationship between the melting of permafrost and the Missoula flood? There is evidence that the Missoula flood happened at a time that permafrost melted at the end of the last ice age. A general warm up of the world happened. The melt was so vast and powerful it changed the way water and moisture is distributed all over the globe. Glacial lakes burst, and rivers, streams and lakes changed or were formed. In some areas of the world, water disappeared entirely. Huge deserts were formed.

While the glacial lakes that created this flood do not exist now, the Missoula flood example shows how water (hydrology) can be affect whole areas of the planet, when it is unleashed, or when it dries up.

What happens when permafrost melts? Why should we be concerned?


* Permafrost is permanent year-round frozen ground
* Soils many cm below surface never rise above 0C
* Only top few cm thaw in summer - "active layer"
* Many regions have been like this for 1,000s of years
* Major thaw changes water distribution in ecosystem
* Sequestered carbon released; buildings destabilized

In Ellesmere Island, Canada, a combination of warmer temperatures and sunny days has triggered an increasing frequency of detachment events, or landslides, over the past 25 years, compared with the previous 75, according to Antoni Lewkowicz, professor of geography at the University of Ottawa.

A detachment event occurs on a slope when the bottom of the active layer - the layer of thawing and freezing ground above permafrost - becomes slick with melted ice, causing it to slide off from the permafrost below.

But in this case, the amount of temperature increase is not so important as the rate of increase, Dr Lewkowicz found.

Meltwater from ice that warms slowly drains away. When ice warms quickly, water pools, creating a frictionless surface between the active layer and the permafrost. Like a stroll across a sloping icy pavement, a fall is almost certain.

"We have records from this particular site for about 10 or 12 years," said Dr Lewkowicz. "The years when active layer detachments have taken place have been times when we've had this rapid thaw down at the bottom of the active layer."

The slides may cut a wide swath hundreds of metres across, but extend only 50 or 60cm deep.
"They're almost skin-like landslides, moving across the permafrost," said Dr Harris.
The exposed permafrost, warmed by the air, now produces a new active layer.

Permafrost melt during the time of these floods contributed to the Missoula Flood. Water from the melt was distributed over thousands of miles. These waters created much of the geographic structure of the Columbia Gorge, the Portland area and the Willamette Valley all the way past Eugene.

Here is a Wikipedia definition that is easy to follow: (follow the link for some great graphics)


The Missoula Floods (also known as the Spokane Floods or the Bretz Floods) refer to the cataclysmic floods that swept periodically across eastern Washington and down the Columbia River Gorge at the end of the last ice age.
The floods were the result of the periodic sudden rupture of the ice dam on the Clark Fork River that created Glacial Lake Missoula. After each rupture of the ice dam, the waters of the lake would rush down the Clark Fork and the Columbia River, inundating much of eastern Washington and the Willamette Valley in western Oregon. After the rupture, the ice would reform, recreating Glacial Lake Missoula once again.
The mechanism by which the ice


What is a hydraulic dam? It is the restriction of the rate of water flow caused by a narrowed reach in a river valley. During a valley-filling flood, the narrows restrict flow, thus causing water upstream to pond partly and temporarily. The most spectacular example of a hydraulic dam during the Ice Age Floods was Wallula Gap, which restricted nearly 200 cubic miles of water in a huge, temporary pond in Pasco basin. On the lower Columbia, a narrows near Kalama also briefly ponded floodwater. This narrows thus helped to back up floodwater upstream, flooding not only the Portland-Vancouver basin but also the Willamette Valley to beyond Eugene.

Links to learn more

Deserts forming and over a billion people on the planet without clean drinking water -  http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/3747724.stm

Map of a short list of Oregon's superfund sites:  http://www.deq.state.or.us/wmc/cleanup/npl0.htm

What I was hoping for ... 30.Jul.2006 12:00


was deep conversation. NOt the same ole...let's give it up, it's all too hard, everyone for themselves comments.

I was hoping that people would come up with some ideas for how to form strong alliances and communities. How to be aware so that nothing surprises us. It seems one thing that will be needed now is the ability to deal with radical change. I would say being a consumer unit right now is for not, many of us will be forced to move and be flexible in our lifestyles.

I was hoping to attract community minded, cooperative people to this conversation.

What Television - mass media propaganda fails to teach us is that most problems cannot be solved with money, in 1/2 an hour, with extreme competiveness, with violence or without knowledge or by consuming more.

What if we put our heads and hearts together and began to have real conversations with each other?

the answer to the question 30.Jul.2006 14:10

big, old, trees

In my opinion the only hope for us here in cascadia is to preserve the remaining ancient forests. Trees cool the atmosphere as well as stabilize topsoil, I bet they drink a lot of water too. Look for an outrageos timber sale in your neck of the woods and draw yoour line in the sand.

Conversations in Cascadia 30.Jul.2006 14:21

Cascadian Shaman

I hear you Z...The time has definitely come to awaken to our own families, communities, networks, and stay flexible and lean through the oncoming difficult times. To identify with land and family, with each other instead of with decaying political systems and infrastructures.

The fundamental struggle has become one of returning back to what it means to live in a human body, in a nourishing human community, on a land that we consider sacred and alive. I think this makes electric hybrids, public transportation, "smart growth", and sustainable development non-issues. All these distract from the fact that likely none of this obscene modern world will last more than 20 more years in a way that we could at all recognize.

Many village campfires will have been burning for quite a while before the last lightbulb goes out, I think, and before climate change makes a mockery of the global civilization. Right now, one by one, we can start lighting them and gathering there, to talk about what matters.

Thank you Z 30.Jul.2006 16:27

Ecotopian Yeti

Thank you Z I am sharing this with

What to do? Well alot. First of create a Tree Army (Stik Sojers in Chinook Jargon) like the Civilian Conservation Corp of the 1930s that also replanted we need trees and to break up the concrete. Its what we can do locally and be the model of globally. Second stop all support (meaning the buying of any product) that contributes to destruction of the world rainforests. Third (but in no order of action) get rid of these Corporatists and Fascists! WE NEED AN EVERGREEN REVOLUTION one that changes ourselves not just who sits in some stupid political office! We will never stop global climatic change, but at least we can reduce its affect in the next 20 to 50 years starting now.

Learn the earth and plants where we are.. 30.Jul.2006 18:32

Jane Cascadia

We need to learn about the earth and the plants that grow here. Did you know that Oregon Grape is a natural astringent (good for cleaning wounds) and a natural immune system booster. It is much like Golden Seal, but it grows here. And did you know that if you were really hungry and lost in the woods, you could eat the young leaves of Salal which is all over Cascadia. The berries are full of nutrition also. They can be used to sweeten other foods. They dry beautifully and can be carried around as an energy food.

If a disease was being spread that caused fever or stomach problem, I would indeed eat the berries and bark of Oregon Grape. I would mix salal berries with it to make it more edible. I would also not take too many, Oregon Grape is very potent medicine. The root and bark have a beautiful golden yellow used to dye fibers.

How many of you can start a fire with just a stone and a stick?

Energy Conservation 30.Jul.2006 21:34

jail bush

O.K. Kool Aid Aside, has anyone heard any discussion of energy conservation coming from senate/congress/industry/ anywhere?? This country could reduce half it's energy consumption without even noticing it. It might put a damper in window shopping at night but it would be painless. As I experience Portland, it is a city/town that is vain, loves to pat itself on the back for whatever good deeds it's inhabitants do and is ripe for a draconian energy policy that everyone could participate in and feel part of a community of people that are doing the right thing. That model could then be "sold" to other cities and perhaps make a difference. Saving energy would be easy. Odd numbers drive on monday, even numbers drive on tuesday and so on. Busses become free. Education via community meetings arranged by the city with draconian steps that are required. if your energy bills go over a certain amount, you are fined. no cars in downtown. huge bike lanes to rival streets. improved rail travel. art galleries with 40 100W flood lights burning 8 hours per day have to come up with a different plan. An entire inspection unit would be set up within state government that would educate, inspect, advise, facilitate and police the plan. other things: clothes lines, skylights, more underground building would require less energy to cool and heat, a well designed web source for car pooling connections. punch in your location and find someone heading out there. some kind of incentives for participating, the possibilities are endless. Democrat/theocrat congress has to arm and take the republicans into custody, remove the troops from iraq and send them to the rainforest and shoot to kill anyone who dares even to piss on a tree.

awesome advice, Jane! 30.Jul.2006 23:31


I liked this one about Oregon Grape:
"The root and bark have a beautiful golden yellow used to dye fibers."

I've been looking for info on how to set natural dyes into fabric without using any material that is toxic or not readily obtained from the local environment. Most literature on vegetable dying suggests using coal tar or another mined, synthetic, or toxic material to set the dye. Do you know anything about this?

I've seen a lot of Queen Anne's Lace growing around here. Each of the blossom groups of white flowers has a single purple flower in the middle, it is supposed to be good for dying but the flower is veeeeerrrrry tiny.

well CaptainPlanet 31.Jul.2006 03:23

Ecotopian Yeti

I think this is where the FreeSkools can come in. And yes Jane Cascadia, eat, drink, wear and be local is part of the solution. Gandhi started it with the Khadi movement and Cascadia needs that too. Imagine all of us growing hemp or native plants in those pesticide ridden, water sucking, chemically treated lawns. Imagine Cascadians having a Khadi movement where we have our own plaids (tsum sil in Chinook Jargon) for each ecoregion and a tsum sil for the bioregion of Cascadia. Imagine having naturally dyed clothing of mixed fabrics like hemp and stinging nettle something like ramie. The reason why we do not now do this is because of cheap practically slave labour in the "developing" world. We could even give a Cascadian Khadi movement a Chinook Jargon name "tupshin" meaning "needle" and when made into an action word (verb) with mamook becoming "mamook tupshin" means to mend, to sew or patch. So lets have a "Tupshin Movement" where instead of bored people sitting on buses playing with gameboys, cellphones and other annoying gadgets the knit, weave or sew. It could be a nice form of meditation like pray beads or rosaries while sitting at meetings or waiting for that organic lunch to be served at your favorite cafe.


Stinging Nettles as fabric clothing
"Before World War I, the Germans were harvesting up to 60,000 tons of nettles a year to make soldiers' uniforms (Elliott 1997)."
Cascadian Tsum Sil
Cascadian Tsum Sil "Land of Falling Water"

the local democratization of material choice 31.Jul.2006 15:39


"Learn the earth and plants where we are.. 30.Jul.2006 18:32
Jane Cascadia....We need to learn about the earth and the plants that grow here. "

Yes, I would make the same point: to get out of political relationships of unsustainabilty is remove economic clientelism and reduction of local choices that is so a part of it. This means having more local optimal choice of commodities. 54 of them at least.

see here, three part series:

COMMODITY ECOLOGY: From mere "End of Pipe" Remediation, to Ecological Engineering for a Sustainable Economic Watershed

This section veers outside the formal institutional discussion toward a proposal of how to make economically sustainable frameworks across each watershed in the world. This is done by going further than the "end of pipe" remediation strategies of both ecological modernization as well as Living Machines, toward democratizing a process by which we choose and use materials locally in the first place. Commodity ecology is the local watershed democratization of commodity choice and their interactions.


Find a way to make then your local material choices, instead of some polluting private corporation's ideas of what the choices should be.

You may like reading the book on Gaviotas (linked in the above), though it had some difficulties expanding itself or seeding itself outside its own local area, which I attempt to tackle in the ideas above by making it more autonomy driven.

The difficulty is that our technologies are all decided on us by degradating private corporations that have a supply-sided mindset--which typically denegrates and attempts to ignore the consumer. GM crops despite huge opposition are a perfect example of highjacking of the food base by corporations that only use the phrase "supply equals demand" in their public relations, when in private (as they have been documented) they really consider the consumer the enemy. That's the real life issue.

"Historically, when supply sided groups fail to get their way typically, do they re-read their brainwashing Anglo-American Economics 101 textbooks for inspiration and adapt their recommendations? To change their desires to be at the beck and call of the conscious, discriminating consumer?

Hardly. Instead, they attempt to reformulate the consumer's mindset or to remove consumer choices to force the consumer by default to consume what they are selling. That's called 'consumptive heresthetics.'

Supply-sided groups, when powerful enough, as consumers reject their products like GMOs, take to "genetic bucanneering"--to piratically seizing, contaminating, holding consumers hostage, and demoting consumer choices, so that no one has any choice in the matter of materials except the supply-sided ones people are attempting to reject. Folks, that's the real lesson of Economics 101 in real life: supply versus demand. Supply-sided interests, as scale grows larger, increasingly have entirely different material and ideological politics than the demand-sided consumer. On three hot points of contention--human health, ecological health, and economic durability and health--these groups tend to separate in their politics because of the increasing externalities that are ecologically required when supply-sided materials come to dominate the ideologies of consumption.


Good resource 01.Aug.2006 13:23


A great book on local plants

Ethnobotany of Western Washington by Erna Gunther

 link to www.amazon.com

lets do it 02.Aug.2006 10:47

bob cat

So now that we talked about it , let's go and do it .

http://globalwarmingfacts.blogspot.com/ 02.Aug.2006 22:59

john conner

Global Warming is a BAD SIGN!!!!!!! 25.Sep.2006 20:03

Sarah Davenport davenport-@hotmail.com

I try to talk people into the global warming.It seem a lot people don't care and it made me mad.I really think is bad.I am doing whats best for the enviroment.I thinking to become sciencetific.I am mad that we already destroy the enviroment.We should done it early.I can see the global warming.When i went to freeway.I can see the sky full of polution.I can feel the heat.It seems worse.I am not giving up taking global warming is really bad.I am trying to get people involve.I hate see people cuting tree.Tree help us breath easier and we cut the tree down.I think we are distroying our enviroment.I am mad that people drive too much.We should increase the price even though people complain.I rode bike for 16 mile.I think other people can do it too.For them is easy to complain and don't take the risk.We should take risk make our enviroment better.We should get prestident who worries about the enviroment.Nobody wants to die on the earth or suffer it.Please consider that.I wish i became a president change the enviroment! I hate that is people chose not to take care of earth even though good person try to take care of polution and isn't getting better cause out there people don't care about it cause they want to be lazy dosn't care about the earth.It's greety and i don't like it.I want u to show people is true that we have global warming.If they don't lisent keep taking.I think they will lisent to u soon.If people hear everywhere they probaly relize how bad it is.