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Webinar: Hydrologic response of the Columbia River Basin to Climate Change

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Thursday, 27 September 2018, 2:00

Thursday, September 27, 2018. 2:00PM. Webinar: Hydrologic response of the Columbia River Basin to Climate Change. Bart Nijssen, University of Washington. Sponsored by NOAA. More information here.


The Columbia River, which drains much of the Pacific Northwest, is the fourth-largest river by volume in the United States. Hydroelectric facilities on its main stem and tributaries are responsible for nearly half of total U.S. hydroelectric power generation. Pacific Northwest rivers are also home to anadromous fish, such as salmon, that sustain environmentally, economically, and culturally important fisheries. Northwest rivers provide irrigation water for economically valuable crops and support barge transportation on the lower reaches of the Snake and Columbia Rivers. These competing uses can result in conflict at times. For example, as a result of habitat degradation, dam construction, reservoir operation, and other interventions, many salmon, trout, and sturgeon populations in the Pacific Northwest are now listed as threatened or endangered. Climate change can affect the hydrology of the region in a number of ways. Even without changes in precipitation, changes in temperature will affect snow accumulation and melt. Temperature increases will result in more rainfall in winter, less water stored as snow, and earlier melt of these thinner snow packs. For some rivers, peak flows may no longer occur in spring, but may occur in fall and winter instead. Warmer summers may increase drought conditions, especially if less spring and summer runoff is available from mountain snow packs. Changes in precipitation may alleviate or worsen some of these impacts. Here, we report on a recent study to evaluate climate change impacts on the hydrology in the Columbia River basin and evaluate how methodological choices in the modeling process affect the spread in projected changes for different aspects of hydrology.

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