USGS Release dated May 16, 2012
Climate change projections indicate a steady increase in temperature progressing through the twenty-first century, generally resulting in snow pack reductions, changes to the timing of snowmelt, altered stream-flows, and reductions in soil moisture, all of which could effect water management, agriculture, recreation, hazard mitigation, and ecosystems across the nation. Despite some widespread similarities in climate change trends, climate change will effect specific water basins in the U.S. differently, based on the particular hydrologic and geology conditions in that area.
New USGS modeling studies project changes in water availability due to climate change at the local level. So far, the USGS has applied these models to fourteen basins.
USGS director Marcia McNutt said that “the advantage of these studies is that they demonstrate that there is not just one hydrological response to climate change: the predictions account for essential local factors that will govern the timing, severity, and type of impact, whether it be water shortage, drought, or flood. This is exactly the sort of information communities need to know now, because we are unlikely to see a ’water-as-usual’ future.”
These local projections are based on General Circulation Models that predict how climate change will affect temperature, precipitation, and emissions for large regional areas. The USGS’s Precipitation Runoff Modeling System applies information from the downscaled General Circulation Model projections to local watersheds, where impacts of climate change on water availability will depend on local conditions. These local-scale hydrologic projections will allow managers to plan for changes in water resources that are specific to their area.
These USGS models are just one of several tools developed and used by agencies within the Department of the Interior to study potential impacts from climate change and to provide tools to resource managers to adapt to those changes.
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