Publications

Uncertainty and Extreme Events in Future Climate and Hydrologic Projections for the Pacific Northwest: Providing a Basis for Vulnerability and Core/Corridor Assessments

Citation

Littell, J.S., Mauger, G.S., Salathé, E.P., Hamlet, A.F., Lee, S-Y., Stumbaugh, M., Elsner, M.M., Norheim, R.A., Lutz, E.R., Mantua, N.J. 2014. Uncertainty and Extreme Events in Future Climate and Hydrologic Projections for the Pacific Northwest: Providing a Basis for Vulnerability and Core/Corridor Assessments. Final report for Department of the Interior Pacific Northwest Climate Science Center. Climate Impacts Group, University of Washington, Seattle, WA.


Abstract

The purpose of this project was to (1) provide an internally–_consistent set of downscaled projections across the Western U.S., (2) include information about projection uncertainty, and (3) assess projected changes of hydrologic extremes. These objectives were designed to address decision support needs for climate adaptation and resource management actions. Specifically, understanding of uncertainty in climate projections – in particular for extreme events – is currently a key scientific and management barrier to adaptation planning and vulnerability assessment.

The new dataset fills in the Northwest domain to cover a key gap in the previous dataset, adds additional projections (both from other global climate models and a comparison with dynamical downscaling) and includes an assessment of changes to flow and soil moisture extremes. This new information can be used to assess variations in impacts across the landscape, uncertainty in projections, and how these differ as a function of region, variable, and time period.

In this project, existing University of Washington Climate Impacts Group (UW CIG) products were extended to develop a comprehensive data archive that accounts (in a rigorous and physically based way) for climate model uncertainty in future climate and hydrologic scenarios. These products can be used to determine likely impacts on vegetation and aquatic habitat in the Pacific Northwest (PNW) region, including WA, OR, ID, northwest MT to the continental divide, northern CA, NV, UT, and the Columbia Basin portion of western WY New data series and summaries produced for this project include: 1) extreme statistics for surface hydrology (e.g. frequency of soil moisture and summer water deficit) and streamflow (e.g. the 100–_year flood, extreme 7–_day low flows with a 10–_ year recurrence interval); 2) snowpack vulnerability as indicated by the ratio of April 1 snow water to cool–_season precipitation; and, 3) uncertainty analyses for multiple climate scenarios.