5EASM2: LINKING NEAR-TERM FUTURE CHANGES IN WEATHER AND HYDROCLIMATE IN WESTERN NORTH AMERICA TO ADAPTATION FOR ECOSYSTEM AND WATER MANAGEMENT
Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University 61 Route 9W Palisades, NY 10964

This project began in May 2013. As the project develops we will highlight here some of our research findings. Our first projects are looking at:

1. Hydroclimate variability and change in the Prairie Potholes Region, North America's "Duck Factory".

duck

The Prairie Potholes Region (PPR) is a remarkable area of the northern U.S. Plains and Canadian Prairies that has some 8 million or so glacial potholes that now comprise a tremendous wetlands environment that is the world's largest waterfowl habitat. Some 85% of North American mallards breed and raise their young in the PPR, often migrating great distances to the PPR in spring and returning home at the end of the summer. Hence the PPR is known as the "duck factory of North America". The PPR is under stress as a waterfowl habitat because of elimination of ponds to enable agricultural expansion. In addition, climate change will impact the region. Over the past decades the region has in general been getting wetter, especially in the southeast where duck populations have increased.

In our just submitted study we examine the past and future hydroclimate of the PPR using observations and climate model simulations from the latest Coupled Model Intercomparison Project 5 (CMIP5) to be assessed for Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Assessment Report Five (IPCC AR5). The main findings are:

a. Over past decades, there is a reasonably clear link between hydroclimate variability and the numbers of ponds and ducks. Hence there is every reason to believe that climate change will impact the PPR as a waterfowl habitat.
b. It is unlikely that seasonal prediction of PPR hydroclimate variability will have much skill since the links to predictable sea surface temperature variations are weak.
c. Past PPR hydroclimate variability, with a strengthening of the east-west moisture contrast, has been dominated by natural variability and cannot be expected to continue.
d. Climate models project that precipitation will increase across the region except during summer. However, rising temperatures will cause increased evapotranspiration and evaporation with a possible negative impact on pond numbers and sizes during summer when ducklings are being raised.

These hydroclimate analyses produce potential inputs to ecological and hydrological simulations of wetlands to inform risk analysis of how this North American waterfowl habitat will evolve in the future, providing guidance to land managers facing conservation decisions. 2

 

2. Mechanisms for changes in the mean hydroclimate of Western North America under global warming.

3. Warming climate may spread drying to a third of earth, says study.

4. Exploring post flow of the Gila River.

5. Changes in seasonality of North American hydroclimate.

6. Climate model simulation of Rio Grande stream flow and projected changes for the 21st Century.

7. Impact of climate variability on the migration of Monarch butterflies.