Category Archives: Climate Modeling

Under what climatic conditions will it make economic sense to switch to a new irrigation system?

By: Keyvan Malek and Sonia A. Hall

Flood irrigation, a low efficiency system in use in parts of Washington State. Public domain photo by Jeff Vanuga, USDA NRCS.

Investing in efficient irrigation systems usually requires significant capital. As with other capital-intensive investments, doing it would only make economic sense if the benefits exceed the costs. Each farmer can estimate the cost of switching their system to a high-efficiency system. But what about the benefits? What do they depend on? And will those factors they depend on change in the future? We used a model to play out some “what if” scenarios to address these questions in Washington’s Yakima Basin (see this article on using models in this way). Continue reading

Water for the Long Haul

By: Joye Redfield-Wilder
Repost from ECOconnect

2016 forecast will guide water management in Columbia River Basin
Ecology’s Office of Columbia River (OCR) has a mission to “aggressively pursue development of water supplies to benefit both instream and out of stream uses.”  Since 2006, the program has been building water resiliency in Eastern Washington, especially in response to changing climate and drought.
The 2016 Water Supply and Demand Forecast for the Columbia River Basin tells a story of Washington’s water future and is helping water managers to anticipate likely water needs across the Columbia River Basin over the next 20 years (2035). Continue reading

Considering Food-Energy-Water Interconnections in the Urban Northwest

By Liz Allen

Two different visions for the future of metro Seattle’s food system. All photos © Creative Commons License for non-commercial use, clockwise from top left: Oregon Department of Agriculture, Irrigation; Rachel Knickmeyer, Seattle Skyline; The West End, Pike Place Urban Garden.

If you follow research priorities for agriculture and the environment at the federal and international level, you’re likely aware that the “Food-Energy-Water Nexus” has become something of a buzz phrase in recent years. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and the National Science Foundation, for example, have put out calls for research proposals that investigate interconnections and interdependencies among food, energy and water (FEW) resources.

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Climate Model Series (Part 5 of 5): Can we get a 2nd opinion? Why multiple models are key to understanding climate change impacts.

By Liz Allen

Wheat around the world. According to the International Development Research Center of Canada, wheat is the most widely grown cereal grain, occupying 17% of the total cultivated land in the world, and providing more calories and protein in the global diet than any other single crop. All photos © Creative Commons License for non-commercial use, clockwise from top left: Guillaume Bourven, wheat silage harvest, Finistère Nord, Bretagne, France; Sathish J. spring wheat, Steptoe Butte, Washington State; Ekaterina Sotova, wheat growing in Kuzovka, Russia; J.van de Gevel, Bioversity International, Farmers evaluating traits of wheat varieties, Ethiopia.

Wheat around the world. According to the International Development Research Center of Canada, wheat is the most widely grown cereal grain, occupying 17% of the total cultivated land in the world, and providing more calories and protein in the global diet than any other single crop. All photos © Creative Commons License for non-commercial use, clockwise from top left: Guillaume Bourven, wheat silage harvest, Finistère Nord, Bretagne, France; Sathish J. spring wheat, Steptoe Butte, Washington State; Ekaterina Sotova, wheat growing in Kuzovka, Russia; J.van de Gevel, Bioversity International, Farmers evaluating traits of wheat varieties, Ethiopia.

In the Climate Modeling Series, I have explored what you need to know to interpret and use models effectively (you can find the four previous posts in the series by searching “Climate Model Series” on www.agclimate.net). For this final installment, I’d like to use hot-off-the-press research of global significance to illustrate why, when it comes to climate change research, two or more “opinions” are better than one.

Published in September in Nature Climate Change, the paper “Similar estimates of temperature impacts on global wheat yield by three independent models” was authored by a large team of international co-authors, including researchers affiliated with WSU’s Department of Biological Systems Engineering and the AgWeatherNet program. They compared projections of global wheat yield under a 1°C temperature increase, and found that the models consistently project declining global wheat yields.

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Climate Model Series (Part 4 of 5)– What We Know About What We Don’t Know

By Liz Allen

The author's brother moves an irrigation pipe in the Willamette Valley. Making management decisions amid multiple uncertainties is at the heart of what farmers do. Photo credit: Liz Allen

The author’s brother moves an irrigation pipe in the Willamette Valley. Making management decisions amid multiple uncertainties is at the heart of what farmers do. Photo credit: Liz Allen

Just how well can we model the impacts that climate change will have on agriculture in the Pacific Northwest? Simply put, there will always be uncertainty about exactly how the climate of the future will differ from historical patterns and what those changes will mean for farmers in the region. How accurately models can project future conditions is a big and complex topic. Discussions of uncertainty can quickly veer into fairly esoteric scientific and philosophical territory, leading to questions such as: What constitutes scientific proof? How can we account for inherent randomness within systems when studying the future? And, how useful are model projections when there is uncertainty associated with nearly every input variable? In practice, however, modeling is tremendously useful because it allows researchers and agricultural decision-makers to put bounds on uncertainty. Thus, modeling helps make plans for the future in spite of uncertainty. Continue reading

Climate Data for Kickstarting Adaptation

by John Abatzoglou and Katherine Hegewisch

Reprinted from: Climate of the Inland Northwest US

Concerned about record breaking temperatures tomorrow, low spring snowpack this winter, or warming temperatures over the next half century? Coping mechanisms exist to minimize detrimental impacts (or maximize opportunities) from these three types and timescales of climate impacts. From the perspective of agricultural impacts, data -whether it comes in the form of observations, weather forecasts or climate projections- can be an incredibly valuable asset. Yes, weather forecasts are sometimes not perfect, and climate projections have uncertainty. However, numerical weather models used by the National Weather Service  have contributed to an estimated $31.5 billion dollar a year benefit to the US not to mention how these forecasts have saved lives. Continue reading

How useful are models anyway? An example, now open for public comment

By: Sonia A. Hall

Cover of the draft 2016 Long-Term Supply and Demand Forecast Legislative Report, currently available for public comment. Click image for link.

Cover of the draft 2016 Long-Term Supply and Demand Forecast Legislative Report, currently available for public comment. Click image for link.

Water, water everywhere… but will it continue to be there in the future? Will it be available when we need it? Or do we need to invest in projects or policies now, because the water in the future will not be the same as in the past? These are the issues that the collaborative research team working on the 2016 Columbia River Long-Term Supply and Demand Forecast are using models to address, at the direction of the Office of the Columbia River (OCR, part of the Washington Department of Ecology) and the Washington State Legislature.

Preliminary model results were presented at three public workshops in Richland, Wenatchee and Spokane in late June, and the draft report is available for public comment on OCR’s website until July 20, 2016. Continue reading

CIRC’s Big Wood Project Reaches Completion

By John Stevenson

Reprinted from: The Climate CIRCulator

Map of the Big Wood Basin study area.

Map of the Big Wood Basin study area.

LYING ROUGHLY DEAD CENTER in the lower half of Idaho, the Big Wood River Basin is more than 3,000 square miles, an area larger than Delaware. As with much of the U.S. West, the Big Wood is facing potential water scarcities as warming temperatures lead to less snowpack, changing the Big Wood’s hydrology and potentially affecting everyone from ski resort owners to farmers growing alfalfa and row crops.

To understand how climate change could impact life in the basin, my colleagues and I at CIRC, including Denise Lach, Co-Director of CIRC and Professor in Oregon State University’s School of Public Policy; John Bolte, CIRC researcher and Professor and Head of OSU’s Biological and Ecological Engineering Department; Allison Inouye, Bolte’s graduate student; and others tried out a somewhat new and largely untested methodology: for five years we engaged a stakeholder network in the co-production of science. Continue reading

Climate Change and Groundwater

By CIRCulator Editorial Staff

Reprinted from: The Climate CIRCulator

The Spokane River. (Photo: Nick Bramhall, some rights reserved.)

The Spokane River. (Photo: Nick Bramhall, some rights reserved.)

A GREAT DEAL of attention has been paid to how climate change will affect water availability as it relates to snowpack. But far less attention has been paid to how climate change could affect ground water recharge.

A recent paper in the Journal of Hydrology addresses the issue of ground water recharge and climate change. In the study, Thomas Meixner of the University of Arizona and colleagues examined the impact of climate change on groundwater recharge in eight basins across the western U.S., including the Northwest’s Columbia Plateau and Spokane Valley. Continue reading

Shortcomings in Modeling Precipitation

By CIRCulator Editorial Staff

Reprinted from: The Climate CIRCulator

Columbia River Gorge. (Photo: Peter Roome, some rights reserved.)

Columbia River Gorge. (Photo: Peter Roome, some rights reserved.)

MANY CLIMATE ADAPTATION plans are largely based on climate model projections of precipitation. However, many of these models are notorious for their inability to accurately simulate seasonal rainfall at the regional level. This is especially true for the Pacific Northwest where models consistently depict summers as being much wetter than observed when they simulate past climate. Continue reading