Long-term planning efforts for water systems that account for climate change often depend on a modeling chain that links projections of climate under increasing greenhouse gas emissions to system performance under a variety of planning alternatives. The goal of this exercise is to identify a plan that can ensure adequate performance under changing conditions at a reasonable cost. Unfortunately, insights for decision-making are obscured by a variety of unaccounted uncertainties that are propagated through each stage of the modeling chain.
The Modeling Chain in Climate Change Impact Assessments for Water Systems
Our research focuses on developing modeling frameworks that can help identify planning alternatives that are robust to nonstationary conditions and a variety of modeling uncertainties. We emphasize the need to understand the physical mechanisms that have driven historic hydroclimate variability in order to better understand the uncertainty in future climate projections. Our work also explores other uncertainties beyond climate change, including uncertainty underscoring the natural variability of the climate system and modeling deficiencies in the representation of human-hydrologic systems. To support decision-making under the propagation of these different uncertainties, we explore the use of robustness-based approaches that shift the focus of the analysis to identifying adaptation strategies that provide satisfactory performance over a wide range of plausible future conditions.
Animations and figures provided by: IPCC; Geography Department, U. Oregon; Green County, Pennsylvania Department of Economic Development; Wisconsin Valley Improvement Company