Characterizing Uncertainties in Climate Projections to Support Regional Decision-Making

Funding Amount and Duration:

$94,379 from April 1, 2016 - March 31, 2017

Funding Source:

US Geological Survey

Principal Investigators:

Adrienne Wootten, University of Oklahoma

About:

Global Climate Models (GCMs) use our understanding of atmospheric physics and other earth processes to simulate potential future changes in climate on a global scale. However, these large scale models are not fit for predicting smaller scale, local changes. Downscaling methods can be applied to the outputs of GCMs to give guidance appropriate for a more regional level. No standard approach to downscaling currently exists, however, and the process often results in climate projections that suggest a wide array of possible futures. It is critical that decision-makers looking to incorporate climate information understand the uncertainties associated with different downscaling approaches and can evaluate downscaled data to determine which datasets are appropriate for addressing their questions.

The goal of this project is to provide decision-makers with this information by evaluating the uncertainties associated with different downscaled datasets. Materials will then be developed to communicate these uncertainties to managers and explore how they can be incorporated into risk decision-making. The results will enable managers across the country to better understand possible climate futures in their jurisdictions, allowing them to make more informed planning decisions in the face of uncertainty.

Developing and Analyzing Statistically Downscaled Climate Projections for the South Central U.S.

Funding Amount and Duration:

$85,000 from April 1, 2016 - August 1, 2018

Funding Source:

US Geological Survey

Principal Investigators:

Adrienne Wootten, University of Oklahoma

Cooperators & Partners:

  • Berrien Moore III & Renee McPherson (OU)
  • Keith W. Dixon & John Lanzante (NOAA-Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Lab)

About:

Global climate models (GCMs) are a tool used to model historical climate and project future conditions. In order to apply these global-scale datasets to answer local- and regional-scale climate questions, GCMs undergo a process known as “downscaling”. Since there are many different approaches to downscaling there associated sources of uncertainty; however, downscaled data can be highly valuable for management decision-making if used with a knowledge of its limitations and appropriate applications.

In order to use downscaled data appropriately, scientists and managers need to understand how the climate projections made by various downscaling methods are affected by uncertainties in the climate system (such as greenhouse gas emissions and observed data). This project will produce 243 climate projections using three different downscaling methods, giving researchers insight into how each of these methods responds to various sources of climate uncertainty. This analysis will allow researchers to assist managers in selecting the best downscaled data for their specific management questions. This project will also result in foundational downscaled climate projections for the South Central region, assisting stakeholders in identifying the potential impacts of climate on a range of systems, from water to ecosystems to agriculture.

Informing Hydrologic Planning in the Red River Valley Through Improved Regional Climate Projections

Funding Amount and Duration:

$62,698 from September 26, 2015 - September 25, 2017

Funding Source:

US Geological Survey

Principal Investigators:

Ming Xue, Center for Analysis and Prediction of Storms (CAPS), University of Oklahoma

Cooperators & Partners:

  • Douglas Lilly (Co-PI) & David Williams (Co-PI), U.S. Army of Corps of Engineers (USACE)
  • Xiaoming Hu (Co-PI) & Renee McPherson, University of Oklahoma

About:

Across the Southern Great Plains, increasing temperatures are expected to alter the hydrological functioning of the region by contributing to severe droughts, more intense rainfall events, and more severe flooding episodes. These changes could adversely affect human and ecological communities. The ability to better predict future changes in precipitation and the response of hydrologic systems in the region could help mitigate their negative impacts. Yet while today’s global climate models provide large-scale projections of future temperature and precipitation patterns that can be broadly useful for large-scale water resource planning, they are often not appropriate for use at a smaller, more local scale.

This research will develop high-resolution climate projections for the Southern Great Plains that are better suited to informing water management at the local scale, with a focus on the Red River Valley. High resolution weather models will be used to downscale global climate model forecasts to provide more accurate local projections of future climate conditions for the Valley. These models will be run multiple times, creating a spread of model outcomes that will provide insight into the range of possible climate futures for the region and reveal any uncertainties managers should be aware of when using the projections. The very high-resolution projections will be used in the context of long-term hydrological modeling and management to inform cost-effective flood control planning, water supply management, hydroelectric power generation, and ecosystem conservation.

Quantifying Future Precipitation in the South Central U.S. for Water Resources Planning

Funding Amount and Duration:

$62,698 from September 26, 2015 - September 25, 2017

Funding Source:

US Geological Survey

Principal Investigators:

Jung-Hee Ryu, Texas Tech University (TTU)

Cooperators & Partners:

  • Katharine Hayhoe & Sharmistha Swain, Climate Science Center, Texas Tech University
  • Barry Keim, Kevin Robbins, Luigi Romolo & Amanda Lewis, Southern Climate Impacts Planning Program
  • Southern Regional Climate Center, Louisiana State University

About:

Publication: Observed and CMIP5 Modeled Influence of Large-Scale Circulation on Summer Precipitation and Drought in the South Central United States

The South Central U.S. is home to diverse climates and ecosystems, strong agricultural and energy sectors, and fast-growing urban areas. All share a critical need for water, which is becoming an increasingly scarce resource across the region as aquifers are overdrawn and populations grow. Understanding what brings rain to this region, and how the timing and amount of precipitation may be affected by climate change, is essential for effective water planning and management, yet community planners and managers have indicated that currently available precipitation forecasts for the South Central are insufficient, due largely to the high levels of uncertainty associated with precipitation projections for the region.

This project aims to improve scientific understanding of the local and large-scale atmospheric processes that bring moisture to the region and drive precipitation. The project will analyze long-term historical weather station records and atmospheric dynamics, improving our ability to interpret global climate model simulations and apply them to regional management questions. Researchers will project future changes in seasonal rainfall and drought risk to assist water resources planning and preparedness efforts.

Lessons learned from this work will be used to inform long-term projections for our region, making complex climate information and analyses more approachable, understandable, and actionable for regional policy-makers, planners, and managers.

Online Climate Change Impacts Course

Funding Amount and Duration:

$144,132 from August 15, 2015 - January 30, 2018

Funding Source:

US Geological Survey

Principal Investigators:

Aparna Bamzai, South Central Climate Science Center

Cooperators & Partners:

  • Renee McPherson (Co-PI), OU
  • Jeff Muehring (Co-PI), NextThought LLC
  • Jean Ann Bowman, TAMU
  • A range of collaborators from the SC CSC consortium, USGS and DOI partners, and associated Landscape Conservation Cooperatives (LCCs)

About:

View Course Videos on YouTube

View Course Materials at Janux.ou.edu

Most resource managers need to take climate impacts into account when making decisions during the course of their career, whether their work protects native species populations, reduces the impact of extreme storms on infrastructure, or improves water quality in a watershed. Professional training that develops an understanding of the climate system, how it is changing, and what that means for various natural and cultural resources can help improve long-term management outcomes. However, not all agencies or organizations have the capacity to provide this important training, limiting the ability of managers to interpret complex climate data and address climate-related questions.

Therefore, this project developed an online, interactive course titled “Managing for a Changing Climate.” The course is free and available worldwide for anyone with an internet connection through the Janux platform. Course content and assignments provide students with an integrative understanding of the climate system, the role of natural variability in the climate system, external drivers of climate change, and the implications of climactic shifts for natural and cultural resources. Resources managers, tribal environmental professionals, staff and students at other Climate Science Centers and Landscape Conservation Cooperatives, and members of the general public can participate freely.

Material for this course was developed in partnership with NextThought LLC, NASA through the Oklahoma Space Grant Consortium, and the University of Oklahoma College of Atmospheric and Geographic Sciences. The course is also offered as a 3-credit upper division undergraduate course in the Department of Geography and Environmental Sustainability at the University of Oklahoma.

Improving Representation of Extreme Precipitation Events in Regional Climate Models

Funding Amount and Duration:

$83,398 from October 1, 2013 - July 31, 2014

Funding Source:

  • U.S. Geological Survey, University of Oklahoma

Principal Investigators:

  • Ming Xue, University of Oklahoma

About:

Publication: An evaluation of dynamical downscaling of Central Plains summer precipitation using a WRF-based regional climate model at a convection-permitting 4 km resolution

Final Report

The South Central U.S. encompasses a wide range of ecosystem types and precipitation patterns. Average annual precipitation is less than 10 inches in northwest New Mexico but can exceed 60 inches further east in Louisiana. Much of the region relies on warm-season convective precipitation – that is, highly localized brief but intense periods of rainfall that are common in the summer. This type of precipitation is a significant driver of climate and ecosystem function in the region, but it is also notoriously difficult to predict since it occurs at such small spatial and temporal scales. While global climate models are helpful for understanding and predicting large-scale precipitation trends, they often do not capture many of the smaller atmospheric and earth surface processes that influence local and regional precipitation trends, like convective precipitation.

To address this gap in climate modeling capabilities, researchers developed regional climate models that are better able to project small-scale precipitation patterns and localized extreme precipitation events. Researchers combined information about land surface and water conditions with weather and climate models in order to quantify the local-scale impacts of climate on water resources. This highly localized information will assist regional decision-makers in addressing the challenge of predicting precipitation in the South Central U.S., leading to a better understanding of potential future impacts on agriculture, fish and wildlife, water quality and availability, and cultural resources.

Building Capacity within the CSC Network to Effectively Deliver and Communicate Science to Resource Managers and Planners

Funding Amount and Duration:

$50,000 from September 1, 2012 - December 1, 2013

Funding Source:

  • U.S. Geological Survey

Principal Investigators:

  • Dennis Patterson, TTU

Cooperators & Partners:

  • Katharine Hayhoe, TTU
  • Riley Dunlap, OSU

About:

Final Report

A limited amount of valid scientific information about global climate change and its detrimental impacts has reached the public and exerted a positive impact on the public policy process or future planning for adaptation and mitigation. This project is designed to address this limitation by bringing together expertise in the social and communication sciences from targeted academic institutions affiliated with the Department of the Interior’s Climate Science Centers (CSCs) by means of a workshop. Workshop attendees will address and examine barriers to climate communication and methods for communicating science for policy application and engaging media and outreach. Results from the workshop will be published and made available as a resource to CSCs, scientists, land managers, and policymakers. This effort will bring together the expertise needed to ensure that the nation’s CSCs are able to effectively communicate the science of the important but often misunderstood issue of anthropogenic climate change and meaningfully support effective policy across the United States.