Author Archives: eghitis

About eghitis

I am the Climate Change Scientist for the NWIFC and my role is to support the member tribes in identifying and responding to the impacts of climate change relative to treaty resources. My background is in geomorphology, specializing in the ways that physical processes interact with ecology. I studied geology as an undergraduate at the University of Washington, with an emphasis on fluvial geomorphology. My master’s degree is in Environmental Geomorphology from the University of Oxford, where I studied coastal hazards, sea level rise, and the links between tidal channel geomorphology and native vegetation colonization in a restored salt marsh. Since then. I have worked on the geomorphic assessment, prioritization, and design of process-based environmental restoration projects in fluvial, estuarine, and coastal settings. While the restoration of ecological function and structure is vital to the resilience of natural systems to disturbance, I believe that directly addressing climate change is critical to long-term environmental sustainability.

Seattle Honors Indigenous Peoples

The Seattle City Council has honored indigenous peoples by declaring the second Monday in October (formerly known as Columbus Day) as “Indigenous Peoples’ Day.”

From Seattle Mayor Ed Murray’s office: “Seattle sits on the homelands of many tribal nations,” Murray said at a ceremony surrounded by tribal leaders and City councilmembers. “We have many ongoing works with our neighbor tribes, and we welcome the tens of thousands of American Indians and Alaska Natives who have come to call this city home. Today’s commemoration is intended to spark a productive conversation about the contributions of indigenous peoples, and, most importantly, their continued involvement in the cultural fabric of our community and the entire country.”

The Bellingham City Council also plans to consider a move to designate the second Monday in October as Coast Salish Day.

Read more here and see photos from the signing ceremony.

More on Sea Star Wasting Syndrome Research

Watch this video from local PBS station KCTS9 which reports on the research into the disease that is causing catastrophic losses of sea start all along the west coast. Continue to watch for two more pieces: one on a new orca born to Puget Sound’s L-pod and another on sea otters and their role in preserving carbon-sequestering kelp forests.







Locations of sea star wasting syndrome outbreaks. From In Close.

Global Warming Expands Antarctic Winter Sea Ice

As the Antarctic Ice sheet approaches the point of no return for inevitable collapse, winter sea ice is increasing in the waters around the continent. This seems like a contradiction, but is it? The Antarctic ice sheet rests on the land mass, and rate of loss of the has tripled in the last 5 years–a worrying trend considering that 90 percent of the Earth’s ice is located there.

In contrast, the sea ice is floating on water and this floating ice has expanded even though Southern Ocean temperatures are increasing. The recent expansion is probably due to a combination of changing wind patterns and the cool, fresh melt water interacting with the ocean surrounding Antarctica. When the meltwater mixes with seawater, the result is less dense water that is closer to the freezing point. This forms a pool of surface water around the continent that can then more readily freeze onto the floating sea ice.

As the news release states, “as counterintuitive as expanding winter Antarctic sea ice may appear on a warming planet, it may actually be a manifestation of recent warming.”

Ream more at Climate Progress and at in NOAA’s news release at


Indigenous Peoples at the Head of Historic NYC Climate March

The 400,000 people marching in New York City to demand climate action on September 21, 2014 were led by Indigenous people from all over the world at the front of the throng that stretched for more than two miles. The crowds also included former Vice President Al Gore, New York City Mayor Bill DeBlasio, primatologist Jane Goodall, and United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, who has called upon the world’s leaders to commit to solving the crisis. Read more here and be sure to check out this video.


New, Higher Estimates of Upper Ocean Warming

The global ocean stores more than 90% of the heat associated with global warming; a new study published in Nature Climate Change has shown that the upper ocean has been warming more quickly since 1970 than models previously suggested.  Using satellite altimetry observations and a large suite of climate models, the authors found that previous estimates are about 24 to 58 percent too low. The study attributes this to a lack of data from large areas of Southern Hemisphere oceans combined with limitations of the analysis methods used in those regions where data is lacking.

Paul Durack, lead author, and oceanographer with the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, told Science magazine, “The thing that was surprising to me was the magnitude of this underestimation.” This has important implications for sea level rise and and climate sensitivity assessments.


From Durack, P.J. et al. 2014. Quantifying underestimates of long-term upper-ocean warming. Nature Climate Change. Published online 05 October 2014

Remarks by the President at UN Climate Change Summit

THE PRESIDENT:  Mr. President, Mr. Secretary General, fellow leaders:  For all the immediate challenges that we gather to address this week — terrorism, instability, inequality, disease– there’s one issue that will define the contours of this century more dramatically than any other, and that is the urgent and growing threat of a changing climate.

Five years have passed since many of us met in Copenhagen.  And since then, our understanding of climate change has advanced — both in the deepening science that says this once-distant threat has moved “firmly into the present,” and into the sting of more frequent extreme weather events that show us exactly what these changes may mean for future generations.

No nation is immune.  In America, the past decade has been our hottest on record.  Along our eastern coast, the city of Miami now floods at high tide.  In our west, wildfire season now stretches most of the year.  In our heartland, farms have been parched by the worst drought in generations, and drenched by the wettest spring in our history.  A hurricane left parts of this great city dark and underwater.  And some nations already live with far worse.  Worldwide, this summer was the hottest ever recorded — with global carbon emissions still on the rise.

So the climate is changing faster than our efforts to address it.  The alarm bells keep ringing.  Our citizens keep marching.  We cannot pretend we do not hear them.  We have to answer the call.  We know what we have to do to avoid irreparable harm.  We have to cut carbon pollution in our own countries to prevent the worst effects of climate change.  We have to adapt to the impacts that, unfortunately, we can no longer avoid.  And we have to work together as a global community to tackle this global threat before it is too late.

To read more, click here.

People’s Climate March

World leaders, including President Obama, will gather in New York next week to discuss climate change at the United Nations Climate Summit. While big breakthroughs seem unlikely at the summit, tens of thousands of people are expected to march in the streets of New York and other cities on Sunday to demand stronger action.

The Climate Knows No Borders International Rally at the Peace Arch

On Saturday, September 20 at 1 pm, First Nations, Native American tribes, Canadians, and Americans will gather at the Peace Arch Park near the border crossing between Vancouver, B.C. and Washington. This action is organized by 350 Seattle, Wilderness Committee, and the Georgia Strait Alliance to defend the Salish Sea from fossil fuel development and climate change. Details can be found here.

It is occurring in conjunction with the Nawt-sa-maat Alliance for Protecting and Restoring the Sacredness of the Salish SeaThe Nawt-sa-maat Alliance is bringing together a broad multi-national, cross-cultural collaboration of Coast Salish tribal governments, organizations, and impassioned individuals who love this region and call it home to take “Unprecedented Unified Action” to Protect the Sacredness of the Salish Sea. First Nations and Native American tribes include the Tsleil-Waututh Nation, Lummi Nation, and Tulalip Nation. One meaning of the Coast Salish word Nawtsamaat is: “One House. One Heart. One Prayer. United in Power to Protect the Sacred!”

Seattle People’s Climate March

In Seattle, a rally at Westlake Center will be held on Sunday, September 21 at 1pm in solidarity with the People’s Climate March in NYC calling on the U.N. Climate Summit to take urgent and serious action to stop climate change. Details can be found here.



Better Growth, Better Climate

A new report from the  Global Commission on the Economy and Climate has found that redirecting infrastructure investment toward low greenhouse gas emission options would not be too costly to implement.

In an article in The New York Times, Felipe Calderón, the chairman of the commission, former president of Mexico, and an economist, said, “We are proposing a way to have the same or even more economic growth, and at the same time have environmental responsibility. We need to fix this problem of climate change, because it’s affecting all of us.”

The Global Commission on the Economy and Climate was appointed by seven countries: Colombia, Ethiopia, Indonesia, Norway, South Korea, Sweden and the United Kingdom. The commission enlisted some of the world’s top economists and business consultants to take a fresh look at the economic questions surrounding climate change.

Half of North America’s Bird Species Threatened by Climate Change

The National Audubon Society has released their Birds and Climate Change Report. By combining hundreds of thousands of citizen science observations and projections from climate models, Audubon scientists have mapped how birds in the U.S. and Canada will react to changing conditions. They describe it as the broadest and most detailed study of its kind, and the closest thing to a field guide to the future of North American birds.

Of the 588 North American bird species evaluated, 126 are classified as climate endangered because they are projected to lose more than 50 percent of their current range by 2050. Another 188 species are classified as climate threatened and are expected to lose more than 50 percent of their current range by 2080 if global warming continues at its current pace.

You can see a good summary from the New York Times here.