A vulnerability driven approach to identify adverse climate and land use change combinations for critical hydrologic indicator thresholds: Application to a watershed in Pennsylvania, USA

R. Singh, T. Wagener, R. Crane, M. E. Mann, L. Ning

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

49 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Large uncertainties in streamflow projections derived from downscaled climate projections of precipitation and temperature can render such simulations of limited value for decision making in the context of water resources management. New approaches are being sought to provide decision makers with robust information in the face of such large uncertainties. We present an alternative approach that starts with the stakeholder's definition of vulnerable ranges for relevant hydrologic indicators. Then the modeled system is analyzed to assess under what conditions these thresholds are exceeded. The space of possible climates and land use combinations for a watershed is explored to isolate subspaces that lead to vulnerability, while considering model parameter uncertainty in the analysis. We implement this concept using classification and regression trees (CART) that separate the input space of climate and land use change into those combinations that lead to vulnerability and those that do not. We test our method in a Pennsylvania watershed for nine ecological and water resources related streamflow indicators for which an increase in temperature between 3°C and 6°C and change in precipitation between -17% and 19% is projected. Our approach provides several new insights, for example, we show that even small decreases in precipitation (∼5%) combined with temperature increases greater than 2.5°C can push the mean annual runoff into a slightly vulnerable regime. Using this impact and stakeholder driven strategy, we explore the decision-relevant space more fully and provide information to the decision maker even if climate change projections are ambiguous.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3409-3427
Number of pages19
JournalWater Resources Research
Volume50
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Apr 2014

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land use change
vulnerability
watershed
streamflow
stakeholder
climate
temperature
water resource
decision making
runoff
land use
climate change
simulation
indicator
decision
test
parameter
water resources management
method
analysis

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Water Science and Technology

Cite this

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title = "A vulnerability driven approach to identify adverse climate and land use change combinations for critical hydrologic indicator thresholds: Application to a watershed in Pennsylvania, USA",
abstract = "Large uncertainties in streamflow projections derived from downscaled climate projections of precipitation and temperature can render such simulations of limited value for decision making in the context of water resources management. New approaches are being sought to provide decision makers with robust information in the face of such large uncertainties. We present an alternative approach that starts with the stakeholder's definition of vulnerable ranges for relevant hydrologic indicators. Then the modeled system is analyzed to assess under what conditions these thresholds are exceeded. The space of possible climates and land use combinations for a watershed is explored to isolate subspaces that lead to vulnerability, while considering model parameter uncertainty in the analysis. We implement this concept using classification and regression trees (CART) that separate the input space of climate and land use change into those combinations that lead to vulnerability and those that do not. We test our method in a Pennsylvania watershed for nine ecological and water resources related streamflow indicators for which an increase in temperature between 3°C and 6°C and change in precipitation between -17{\%} and 19{\%} is projected. Our approach provides several new insights, for example, we show that even small decreases in precipitation (∼5{\%}) combined with temperature increases greater than 2.5°C can push the mean annual runoff into a slightly vulnerable regime. Using this impact and stakeholder driven strategy, we explore the decision-relevant space more fully and provide information to the decision maker even if climate change projections are ambiguous.",
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