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 the Management and Coordination of Water Resources in the Rio Grande Basin

Funding Amount and Duration:

$303,521 from October 1, 2015 - September 30, 2017

Funding Source:

US Geological Survey

Principal Investigators:

Jack Friedman, University of Oklahoma (OU)

Cooperators & Partners:

Jennifer Koch & Jadwiga Ziolkowska, University of Oklahoma

About:

Understanding how to manage scarce water during drought is one of the great challenges we face as a society, particularly for communities in the Rio Grande Basin. Severe drought coupled with human development have profoundly impacted the quantity and quality of water in the basin. Running through Colorado, New Mexico, Texas, and Mexico, the Rio Grande is a multi-national resource that is managed by many different state, federal, and local authorities and used by diverse stakeholders. Developing the basin-wide responses necessary for drought resilience throughout the Basin can be challenging in such a complex management context.

This project seeks to understand how different human and environmental factors affect ten sections of the Rio Grande in order to identify how management strategies and human uses of the river can be better coordinated. The end product will be a tool allowing stakeholders to examine the costs and benefits of their decisions for themselves and for upstream and downstream users. Overall, the results of this research will help stakeholders improve drought resilience and facilitate the sustainable use of water resources throughout the Basin.

Assessing the State of Water Resource Knowledge and Tools for Future Planning in the Rio Grande/Rio Bravo

Funding Amount and Duration:

$72,622 from October 1, 2015 - December 31, 2016

Funding Source:

US Geological Survey

Principal Investigators:

Phaedra Budy, Utah State University (USU)

Cooperators & Partners:

  • John Schmidt & Sarah Null, Utah State University
  • Samuel Sandoval Solis, UC Davis

About:

Final Reports

The Rio Grande-Rio Bravo River is the second longest river in the US and is a critical drinking water source for more than 13 million people. It flows south from the snowcapped mountains of Colorado to the New Mexico desert and forms the western border between Texas and Mexico. The multi-national, multi-state, ecologically diverse nature of this river makes management of the resource a complex task, especially in the context of more frequent droughts, changes in land use patterns, and increasing water use needs.

To discuss these and other critical issues throughout the basin, the South Central Climate Science Center is participating in a forum planned by the Desert Landscape Conservation Cooperative and other partners. This forum will convene hundreds of stakeholders to increase interdisciplinary, interagency, and international collaboration across the basin.

To help forum participants better understand the full spectrum of issues facing the basin and make the best use of existing knowledge, this project will assemble, review, and synthesize the existing scientific body of research and monitoring studies relevant to the Rio Grande-Rio Bravo basin. The synthesis will focus on studies that concern stream flow, ground water, geomorphology, ecology, and human interactions with river ecosystems. This project will also review and synthesize available water resource models applicable to the basin that can assist stakeholders in evaluating tradeoffs as they work to meet their management goals for the basin. The results of this project will help identify information gaps for the basin, as well as highlight uncertainty in existing data, methods, and models, providing water resource managers with valuable insight as they work to balance human and ecological water needs throughout the basin.

Regional Graduate Student and Early Career Researcher Training II

Funding Amount and Duration:

$58,917 from October 1, 2015 - September 30, 2016

Funding Source:

US Geological Survey

Principal Investigators:

Derek Rosendahl, South Central Climate Science Center

Cooperators & Partners:

  • Aparna Bamzai (Co-PI), University of Oklahoma
  • Renee McPherson (Co-PI), University of Oklahoma
  • John Zak, Texas Tech University
  • Kristine DeLong, Louisiana State University
  • Keith Dixon, NOAA Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Lab
  • Victor H. Rivera-Monroy, Lousiana State University
  • April Taylor, Chickasaw Nation, South Central CSC
  • Duncan Wilson, Oklahoma State University
  • Graduate students and post docs from across the consortium collaborated on training development. 

About:

Final Report

Recorded Training Talks

Investigating the complex natural and cultural resource management challenges we face today requires building diverse, interdisciplinary research teams. Robust stakeholder engagement is also critical for ensuring that publicly funded science answers questions that are relevant to natural and cultural resource management decisions. Early career scientists who learn how to engage with multi-disciplinary research teams and stakeholders in the early stages of their career have a competitive advantage in the workforce and can help develop actionable science that addresses critical management questions.

This project builds upon the successes of the 2014 Early Career Training to develop a week-long professional development training for graduate students, postdoctoral researchers, and early-career environmental professionals within the South Central Climate Science Center (SC CSC) region. The training will provide a foundation for working in today’s interdisciplinary, stakeholder-driven research contexts and remove institutional barriers at an influential time of development for participants. Participants will be encouraged to continue networking across the SC CSC through their research pathways and be leaders in outcome-oriented, interdisciplinary research that addresses stakeholder-driven research questions.

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.

Empowering Fire Professionals to Manage Changing Fire Regimes

Funding Amount and Duration:

$112,558 from September 23, 2015 - March 23, 2017

Funding Source:

US Geological Survey

Principal Investigators:

Mark Shafer, Oklahoma Climatological Survey

Cooperators & Partners:

  • Brian Hays, Texas A&M Institute of Renewable Natural Resources
  • Amy Hays, Texas A&M Institute of Renewable Natural Resources
  • John Weir, Oklahoma State University, Natural Resource Ecology and Management

About:

Report: Changing Fire Regimes

Fire is a natural and necessary component of the South Central Plains ecosystem. However, fire suppression and more frequent droughts in the region have resulted in a build-up of dry fuels loads such as dead wood, resulting in fires that burn hotter and impact the landscape more severely. Uncontrolled wildfires have cost the region several billion dollars in the past five years. Further, fire suppression has resulted in substantial losses in native plant biodiversity and wildlife habitat, which also has costly implications. In Oklahoma alone, it’s estimated that $157 million will be required to restore rangelands to their native conditions. Of further concern is the fact that projected changes in climate indicate that the region will continue to experience hotter and drier conditions, meaning that fire risks will continue to increase unless proper management strategies, such as prescribed fire, are implemented.

In order to develop effective fire management responses, ongoing research into the changing scope and intensity of fire regimes in the region needs to be better connected to management practitioners and their expertise.This project will help managers respond to changing fire regimes by analyzing historical climate observations and future projections to identify days which are suitable for prescribed burns as well as days of high wildfire potential. Results from the analysis will be presented and discussed at a fire summit convening leading researchers, agencies, and land owners. The summit will also bring together fire experts to discuss the safe and proper application of fire in a changing and variable climate, along with management strategies for fire and its role in combating invasive plant species, maintaining productive landscapes, and enhancing wildlife habitat.

Soil Moisture-Based Drought Monitoring for the South Central Region

Funding Amount and Duration:

$45,857 from September 23, 2015 - September 22, 2018

Funding Source:

US Geological Survey

Principal Investigators:

Tyson Ochsner, Oklahoma State University (OSU)

Cooperators & Partners:

  • Steven Quiring (Co-PI), Texas A&M University
  • Erik Krueger (Co-PI), Oklahoma State University
  • Jessica Lucido, USGS Center for Integrated Data Analytics (USGS-CIDA)
  • Chad McNutt, National Integrated Drought Information System (NIDIS) Program Office, NOAA
  • James Verdin, NIDIS Program Office, USGS
  • Mark Shafer, Southern Climate Impacts Planning Program (SCIPP), University of Oklahoma.

About:

Soil moisture is a critical variable for understanding the impacts of drought on ecological, hydrological, and agricultural systems. Yet, key research gaps currently prevent existing soil moisture measurements from being used to assess drought conditions and mitigate drought impacts such as wildfire outbreaks, lost agricultural production, and degraded wildlife habitat. In fact, most scales used to characterize the severity of drought, known as “drought indices”, don’t include soil moisture measurements, relying instead on atmospheric data. Current barriers to the incorporation of soil moisture data include a lack of consensus regarding how to best construct soil moisture-based drought indices, the challenges associated with integrating existing soil moisture data collected from diverse networks, and a lack of guidelines on how to apply these indices to different crop types.

The objective of this project is to build the necessary scientific foundation for soil moisture-based drought monitoring in the South Central region and beyond. This project will produce effective soil moisture-based drought indices that decision-makers can use retrospectively or in real-time with data from existing monitoring networks to assess drought severity in the South Central region or across the US. Researchers will also create the first regional soil moisture database for the South Central US, which will further support drought monitoring and other climate-related research efforts in this drought-prone region. This improved monitoring capability will facilitate early detection and the implementation of adaptive management strategies, which research has shown are key to reducing the economic and ecological impacts of drought.

Climate Training for Native Tribes of Louisiana and New Mexico

Funding Amount and Duration:

$86,180 from August 15, 2015 - August 14, 2017

Funding Source:

US Geological Survey

Principal Investigators:

Kristine DeLong, Louisiana State University (LSU)

Cooperators & Partners:

  • Barry Keim & Hal Needham, LSU and SCIPP
  • Kevin Robbins, LSU & SRCC
  • April Taylor, South Central CSC
  • Boyd Nystedt & Margaret Chavez, ENIPC Office of Environmental Technical Assistance
  • Linda Langley, Coushatta Tribe of Louisiana
  • Wanda Janes & Steve Terry, United South and Eastern Tribes, Inc.
  • John Tirpac, Gulf Coast Plains and Ozarks LCC
  • Bill Bartush, Gulf Coast Prairie LCC
  • Robert Doudrick & Jeff Williams, Southern Research Station, US Dept. of Agriculture

About:

Tribal nations are one of the most vulnerable populations to climate change in the United States, because of their reliance upon the natural environment to sustain traditional ways of life and current lack of training and resources to respond to climate change impacts. This project seeks to increase south-central U.S. tribes’ basic knowledge of climate science, connect them with tools to assess their communities’ vulnerabilities, and build their skills to develop adaptation and mitigation strategies. Researchers will conduct multiple two-day climate training sessions for Native American tribes in Louisiana and New Mexico. The trainings will emphasize regionally specific scientific and social scientific aspects of climate change that are relevant to the tribal nations’ land management and planning decisions. By participating in these training sessions, participants will gain knowledge that will help them better manage their resources in the context of a changing climate.

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.