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  Cornell University

Steinschneider Research Group

Department of Biological and Environmental Engineering

Research

Water resource managers and planners are charged with the task of delivering a host of water services to society. A diverse array of stakeholders expect different (and often competing) services, such as a reliable supply of clean water for towns and cities, farmers, and industrial processes; enough water of high quality to sustain aquatic ecosystems; clean hydroelectric power to support peak energy demands; and cooling water to maintain operations at thermoelectric power plants. Meeting all of these demands becomes increasingly difficult during times of drought, further exacerbating tradeoffs between stakeholder objectives. When not faced with the challenges of shortage, our water infrastructure must contend with the opposite extreme – heavy rainfall and flooding events that threaten both destruction of property and loss of life. These events are extraordinarily difficult to predict beyond a few days in advance, and the risk of such events may be changing as the climate evolves under natural oscillations in the climate system and anthropogenically forced climate change.

The successful delivery of the myriad water services society demands requires integrated decision-making frameworks that can contend with a range of climate-related risks across temporal scales. This is the primary focus of our research. We seek to develop novel approaches to water resources planning and management that lead to resilient water systems under climate variability and change. We emphasize a risk-based paradigm that first aims to understand the likelihood of climate hazards on different timescales, and then integrates this knowledge into a systems modeling framework to explore how we can improve planning and management decisions under uncertain and evolving climate risks.

The topics we work on include:

  • Profiling causal mechanisms of flood and drought risk
  • Stochastic weather generation and climate scenario development
  • Subseasonal-to-seasonal hydroclimate forecasting
  • Paleo-climate reconstructions of extreme events
  • Forecast-informed reservoir operations
  • Robust and dynamic water system adaptation under climate change
  • Climate resilience at the food-energy-water nexus
  • Non-stationary sediment dynamics
  • Streamflow estimation in ungauged basins 
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