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.

Regional Graduate Student, Post-Doc, and Early Career Researcher Workshop

Funding Amount and Duration:

$50,959 from October 1, 2013 - April 30, 2014

Funding Source:

  • U.S. Geological Survey

Principal Investigators:

  • McPherson, Renee (OU)
  • Rosendahl, Derek (OU)
  • Bamzai, Aparna (OU)

Cooperators & Partners:

  • Taylor, April (Chickasaw Nation)
  • Rivera-Monroy, Victor H. (LSU)
  • Zak, John (TTU)
  • Wilson, Duncan (OSU)
  • Dixon, Keith (NOAA GFDL)

About:

Early Career Training “How-To” Guide

Final Report

Led by the consortium of the South Central Climate Science Center (SC CSC), this project will develop and implement a professional development workshop for graduate students, post-docs, and early career researchers within the SC CSC region. The objectives are to: (1) introduce participants to the goals, structure, and unique research-related challenges of the SC-CSC and its place within the U.S. Department of the Interior and the larger CSC network, offering them insight into how their research fits into the broader research priority goals and its eventual applicability to end user needs across the region; (2) provide an opportunity for participants to present their research to fellow peers; (3) facilitate interdisciplinary interactions between participants within the SC-CSC purview in an effort to foster collaboration opportunities; and (4) generate a set of digitally recorded presentations on the SC-CSC enterprise, a “how to” guide for conducting similar workshops, and a collection of project outlines from small group discussions for internal use. The desire is to remove the institutional barriers, or “silos,” at an influential time of development for these early career professionals and to build a cohort who can continue networking through their research pathways and who can understand and eventually lead outcome-oriented, interdisciplinary research.

Testing Downscaled Climate Projections: Is Past Performance an Indicator of Future Accuracy?

Funding Amount and Duration:

$124,393 from September 29, 2013 - September 24, 2016

Funding Source:

US Geological Survey

Principal Investigators:

John Lanzante, NOAA Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Lab

Cooperators & Partners:

Anne Stoner (Co-PI), Texas Tech University

Keith Dixon (Co-PI), NOAA Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Lab

Venkatramani Balaji (Co-PI), Princeton University

About:

Publication: Evaluating the stationarity assumption in statistically downscaled climate projections: is past performance an indicator of future results?

When climate models are developed, researchers test how well they replicate the climate system by using them to model past climate. Ideally, the model output will match the climate conditions that were actually recorded in the past, indicating that the model correctly characterizes how the climate system works and can be used to reliably project future conditions. However, this approach assumes that models that reliably project past climate conditions will accurately predict future climate conditions, even though the climate system might have changed.
 
This research contributes to generating more reliable local-scale climate projections by testing the assumption that the climatological relationships which existed in the past will continue to exist in the future. To do this, researchers developed a novel approach in which very high-resolution climate model data were used as a surrogate for historical and future “observations”, allowing researchers to test how well the more commonly-used coarse-scale global climate models project future climate conditions.

Findings suggest that the assumption holds reasonably well in many cases, but there are some instances (for example in particular geographic locations, such as coastal regions, and at certain times of year, especially summer) when the assumption is not as robust. This research also explores the conditions under which the assumption does not hold, and develops ways to make the methods used to generate local information about climate change more reliable. The results of this research can improve the reliability of the climate models used by resource managers to inform vulnerability assessments, adaptation planning, and other important climate-related decisions.

Modeling the Effects of Climate and Land Use Change on Crucial Wildlife Habitat

Funding Amount and Duration:

$277,704 from September 1, 2013 - September 1, 2015

Funding Source:

  • U.S. Geological Survey

Principal Investigators:

  • Colleen Caldwell, New Mexico Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit
  • Kenneth Boykin, New Mexico State University
  • Keith Dixon, NOAA Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Lab

Cooperators & Partners:

  • Virgina Seamster, New Mexico State University
  • Esteban Muldavin, Rayo McCollough, & Terri Neville, Natural Heritage NM

About:

Project Poster

Publication: Projected Future Bioclimate-Envelope Suitability for Reptile and Amphibian Species of Concern in South Central USA

Publication: Projections of Future Suitable Bioclimatic Conditions of Parthenogenetic Whiptails

Publication: Modeling the impacts of climate change on Species of Concern (birds) in South Central U.S. based on bioclimatic variables

Changing temperature and precipitation patterns in the South Central U.S are already having an impact on wildlife. Hotter and drier conditions are prompting some species to move in search of cooler conditions, while other species are moving into warmer areas that were once unsuitable for them. These changes in the distribution of wildlife populations present challenges for wildlife managers, hunters, tribal communities, and others who are making decisions about wildlife stewardship.

This project examined the effect of shifting climate conditions on 20 species of conservation concern in the South Central United States. These species, which include the black-tailed prairie dog and the lesser prairie-chicken, were selected according to several criteria, including their expected sensitivity to climatic change. Researchers examined where these species currently occur in order to better understand the environmental, especially climate, conditions necessary for their survival. Climate and land use change projections for 2050 and 2070 were used to assess the potential future distributions of conditions suitable for these species.

Maps evaluating patterns of loss of suitable conditions for the species were developed and incorporated into the publicly accessible New Mexico state-level CHAT (Crucial Habitat Assessment Tool). CHATs are being used by states across the western U.S. to facilitate conservation and project planning, and are useful to decision-makers at all levels of government. Therefore, incorporating information about the potential impact of climate and land use change on species distributions into this tool will ensure that this important information is accessible to managers.

Impacts of Climate Change on Flows in the Red River Basin

Funding Amount and Duration:

$291,580 from August 1, 2013 - August 1, 2015

Funding Source:

  • U.S. Geological Survey

Principal Investigators:

  • Kellogg, Wayne (Chickasaw Nation)
  • McPherson, Renee (OU)
  • Hong, Yang (OU)

Cooperators & Partners:

  • Austin, Barney (INTERA, Inc.)
  • Rosendahl, Derek (OU)
  • Gaitan, Carlos (OU)
  • Qiao, Lei (OU)

About:

Final Report

Publication: Vegetation Greening and Climate Change Promote Multidecadal Rises of Global Land Evapotranspiration

Publication: Evaluation of a Method to Enhance Real-Time, Ground Radar–Based Rainfall Estimates Using Climatological Profiles of Reflectivity from Space

Publication: Performance assessment of the successive Version 6 and Version 7 TMPA products over the climate-transitional zone in the southern Great Plains, USA

The Red River Basin is a vital source of water in the South Central U.S., supporting ecosystems, drinking water, agriculture, tourism and recreation, and cultural ceremonies. Stretching from the High Plains of New Mexico eastward to the Mississippi River, the Red River Basin encompasses parts of five states – New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Louisiana. Further, 74% of the jurisdictional boundaries of the Chickasaw and Choctaw Tribes are located within the basin.

Water resources in the basin have been stressed in recent years due to a multi-year drought and increasing demands for consumptive use by metropolitan areas in Oklahoma and Texas. Unfortunately, currently available projections of future precipitation across the region show a high degree of uncertainty, making it difficult for water managers to plan for the future.

The goal of this project is to provide resource managers with critical information on the impacts of climate change on flow in the Red River Basin. Researchers (1) used global climate models to make climate projections for the basin, and (2) developed models to determine the impacts of projected future climate conditions on stream flow. The modeling results can be used to evaluate future water supplies for water providers and flows for the environment.

The Red River Basin lies within the boundaries of three Landscape Conservation Cooperatives (LCCs), and the results of this project will help the LCCs and other managers reduce the impacts of floods and droughts and make decisions regarding the potential need for additional reservoirs or diversions of water into the Red River Basin. The tools developed for this study can also be used to evaluate the impacts of different flow conditions on aquatic life or water quality in the basin.

Predicting Sky Island Forest Vulnerability to Climate Change: Fine Scale Climate Variability, Drought Tolerance, and Fire Response

Funding Amount and Duration:

$99,937 from July 15, 2013 - July 15, 2015

Funding Source:

  • U.S. Geological Survey

Principal Investigators:

  • Dylan Schwilk and Scott Holaday, Texas Tech University

Cooperators & Partners:

  • Helen Poulos, Poulos Environmental Consulting, LLC
  • Anne Stoner, Texas Tech University

About:

Publication: Post-fire resprouting oaks (genus: Quercus) exhibit plasticity in xylem vulnerability to drought

The Sky Island forests of the southwestern United States are one of the most diverse temperate forest ecosystems in the world, providing key habitat for migrating and residential species alike. Black bear, bighorn sheep, mule deer, and wild turkey are just a few of the species found in these isolated mountain ecosystems that rise out of the desert landscape. However, recent droughts have crippled these ecosystems, causing significant tree death. Climate predictions suggest that this region will only face hotter and drier conditions in the future, potentially stressing these ecosystems even further. Simple models predict that vegetation will move to cooler and wetter locations in response to this warming. However, species responses will likely be more complex than these models show, as vegetation navigates other ecological stressors such as elevation change and water availability.

In order to better predict how vegetation will move in response to future warming, a more robust understanding of how drought and temperature impact tree survival is needed. Focusing on three Sky Island habitats in western Texas, this project will identify the key traits influencing current distributions of forest tree species, determine the susceptibility of these species to drought and temperature, and develop fine-scale, localized climate projections that model future conditions for the study area. This information will then be used to predict how species might shift location in response to warmer and drier future climates, enabling managers to make more robust decisions that will preserve Sky Island forests in the face of a changing climate.

Understanding the Nexus between Climate, Streamflow, Water Quality, and Ecology in the Arkansas-Red River Basin

Funding Amount and Duration:

$422,730 from July 1, 2013 - July 1, 2015

Funding Source:

  • U.S. Geological Survey

Principal Investigators:

  • Trevor Grout, Christopher Harich, & Bill Andrews, USGS

Cooperators & Partners:

  • University of Oklahoma
  • Oklahoma State University

About:

Currently, maintaining appropriate flows to support biological integrity is difficult for larger riverine ecosystems. Climate change, through increased temperature, reduced rainfall, and increased rainfall intensity, is expected to reduce water availability and exacerbate the maintenance of ecological flows in the Arkansas-Red River basin. Understanding the nexus among climate change effects on streamflow, water quality, and stream ecology for watersheds in the Arkansas-Red River Basin can be achieved using currently existing science and technology. This nexus approach will strengthen adaptive-management strategies that focus on shared ecosystem conservation watershed targets. This approach will provide natural-resource managers operating over a variety of spatial scales with measureable relationships between biology and flow while building modeling, monitoring, and statistical capacity to support restoration, conservation, and management goals.

Assessing the Drivers of Water Availability for Historic and Future Conditions in the South Central U.S.

Funding Amount and Duration:

$223,400 from June 1, 2013 - June 1, 2014

Funding Source:

  • U.S. Geological Survey

Principal Investigators:

  • Lauren Hay, USGS National Research Program Branch of Regional Research, Central Region

Cooperators & Partners:

  • Andy Bock, Jacob LaFontaine, Gregory J. McCabe, Steven Markstrom, Steven Regan, Roland Viger, Gail Montgomery, Tim Kern, & John Stamm, USGS

About:

Understanding the changes in the distribution and quantity of, and demand for, water resources in response to a changing climate is essential to planning for, and adapting to, future climatic conditions. In order to plan for future conditions and challenges, it is crucial that managers understand the limitations and uncertainties associated with the characterization of these changes when making management decisions. Changes in consumptive water use (water removed without return to a water resources system) will change streamflow, impacting downstream water users, their livelihoods, as well as aquatic ecosystems. Historical changes in available water may be attributed to changes in precipitation; but these changes may also be attributable to changes in consumptive use. Understanding the roles of natural and anthropogenic influences on the water cycle is an important component of this proposal. The objective of this project is to provide an automated methodology and data products that the public can view, work with, and download through ScienceBase to assess: the accuracy of available climate data and climate projections, the hydrologic effects of these drivers on runoff for historical and future conditions, and the role of consumptive water use on available water supply.

Establishing a Foundation for Understanding Climate Impacts on Coastal Wetland Ecosystems

Funding Amount and Duration:

$257,500 from June 1, 2013 - June 1, 2015

Funding Source:

  • U.S. Geological Survey

Principal Investigators:

  • Michael Osland, USGS Wetland and Aquatic Research Center

Cooperators & Partners:

  • James B. Grace, Camillie L. Stagg, Richard H. Day, & Stephen B. Hartley, USGS Wetland and Aquatic Research Center

About:

Publication: Macroclimatic change expected to transform coastal wetland ecosystems this century

Publication: Freshwater availability and coastal wetland foundation species: ecological transitions along a rainfall gradient

Publication: Beyond just sea-level rise: considering macroclimatic drivers within coastal wetland vulnerability assessments to climate change

Publication: Mangrove expansion and contraction at a poleward range limit: climate extremes and land-ocean temperature gradients

Publication: Climatic controls on the global distribution, abundance, and species richness of mangrove forests

Coastal wetlands are one of the most economically valuable ecosystems in the world. In the United States, the ecosystem services provided by wetlands are worth billions of dollars and include flood protection, erosion control, seafood, water quality enhancement, carbon storage, recreation, and wildlife habitat. Unfortunately, these ecosystems are also highly sensitive to changing climate conditions. Past research on climate impacts to coastal wetlands have concentrated primarily on sea-level rise, largely ignoring the important influence of changing temperature and precipitation patterns. Understanding the impact of temperature and precipitation on coastal wetlands can help natural and cultural resource managers account for these factors when making decisions or developing adaptation plans.

This study advances understanding of how temperature and precipitation influence coastal wetland ecosystems. The study models the relationships between wetland plant community structure and climate in the northern Gulf of Mexico and identifies potential impacts of future climate conditions on these ecosystems. The researchers identify critical ecological thresholds and demonstrate that transformative ecological changes due to climatic shifts are probable throughout the Gulf of Mexico within this century. In certain areas, small changes in temperature or rainfall are expected to trigger large ecological changes and affect certain ecosystem services. Because coastal wetland ecosystems in other parts of the world are also sensitive to changes in temperature and rainfall, the findings of this research have global implications, helping to inform the management of these highly valuable ecosystems under a changing climate.