Research Highlight

Predicting impacts of climate change on the hydrology of the Red River Basin

10.19.2015 (Mon)

Researchers at the University of Oklahoma and the Choctaw and Chickasaw Nations have partnered up to develop projections of water availability in the Red River Basin under future climate conditions. The Red River Basin has recently experienced both severe drought and exceptional flooding, both of which cause impacts to industry, agriculture and tourism, as well as other sectors including the environment. Scientists, water managers and other stakeholders are interested in knowing what is store for the future of the Red River Basin.

Researchers and water managers recognize that climate change at the global scale does not necessarily represent changes that take place at the local or regional scale. Further uncertainty exists in defining future greenhouse gas emission scenarios, now termed Representative Concentration Pathways (RCP) for modeling purposes. Using temperature and precipitation performance metrics, three global climate models (GCMs) were selected, with three RCPs applied, and three downscaling techniques used, resulting in 27 climate simulations through the year 2099. These simulations were fed into a Variable Infiltration Capacity rainfall-runoff model developed specially for this project, the results of which were used as input into RiverWare Water for determining impact to flows, lake levels and water availability.

There is not a well-defined process and methodology for taking results from publicly available GCMs and applying them on a scale suitable for hydrologic models, and ultimately making the information useful to water managers and interested stakeholders. In addition to providing flow and lake level projections, the project researchers made recommendations on choice of GCMs and downscaling methods and reflected on the uncertainties involved in climate change research for hydrologic applications. The project will conclude at the end of 2015.

This research is based on work partially funded by the U.S. Geological Survey through the South Central Climate Science Center. Support was also provided by the Choctaw and Chickasaw Nations.

For more information about this study and its results:

Wayne Kellogg, P.E., P.G., CSP
Engineer, Geologist, Safety
Chickasaw Nation

Barney Austin, PhD, PE
Aqua Strategies Inc.
Cell: (512) 826-2604
Firm PE#s: 15911 in TX; 7214 in OK

Carlos F. Gaitán, PhD.
Research Scientist
University of Oklahoma
South Central Climate Science Center
NOAA-GFDL Affiliate

Derek Rosendahl, Ph.D.
Postdoctoral Research Associate
University of Oklahoma
South Central Climate Science Center

Cody Hudson, P.E.
Water Resources Engineer
INTERA Incorporated

Xianwu Xue, Ph.D.
Postdoctoral Research Fellow
University of Oklahoma
Civil Eng. & Environmental Sci.(CEES)
Advanced Radar Research Center (ARRC)