Collaborative Research: EaSM2: Linking near-term future changes in weather and hydroclimate in western North America to adaption for ecosystem and water management

Lead PI: Dr. Richard Seager , Mingfang Ting , Dr. Yochanan Kushnir , , Jason Smerdon, Michela Biasutti

Unit Affiliation: Ocean and Climate Physics, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory (LDEO)

April 2013 - March 2019
North America
Project Type: Research

DESCRIPTION: This project will examine anticipated changes in the statistics of weather and hydroclimate over western North America in coming decades from the point of view of needs in the management of water and ecosystems. Western North America is already experiencing significant climate and hydroclimate change. Models project that over the next few decades warming will continue, southwestern North America and the southern Plains will become more arid and the northern Rockies and Plains will become modestly more humid. Additionally precipitation is projected to become more intense, variability on all timescales stronger and significant shifts to occur in the seasonal cycles of precipitation, soil moisture and streamflow. While these projected changes will have serious implications for water resources, agriculture, rangelands, wildlife management and natural ecosystems including forests, fire, etc. it must be noted that the model simulations of radiatively-driven hydroclimate change to data are not in close accord with actual change. This could be because the models are wrong or radiatively-driven change is being obscured by potent natural variability.

The work will involve three interwoven efforts:

1) analysis of policy and management decisions to identify needs for ecosystem and water management, and how to translate science to meet those needs,

2) an assessment of how long term changes in those climate features identified as management-relevant in the decision analysis, play out in terms of day-to-day, month-to-month and year-to-year weather and

3) application of hydroclimate information to problems in water resources and ecosystem management in the monsoon region and ecosystem management in the Plains.