Environmental Science Water Resources and Climate Change
by
Peter Gleick
  • LAST MODIFIED: 28 August 2019
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199363445-0119

Introduction

Natural and human-caused climate changes are strongly linked to the hydrologic cycle and freshwater resources. The hydrological cycle is a core part of climate dynamics involving all three common forms of water—ice, liquid, vapor—and the movement of water around the world. Changes in climate affect all aspects of the hydrologic cycle itself through alterations in temperature, precipitation patterns, storm frequency and intensity, snow and ice dynamics, the stocks and flows of water on land, and connections between sea levels and coastal wetlands and ecosystems. In addition, many of the social, economic, and political impacts of climate change are expected to be felt through changes in natural water resources and developed water systems and infrastructure. Extensive research extending back a century or more has been conducted around the world on all the subsection categories presented below. Despite many remaining uncertainties, major advances in basic scientific understanding of the complex processes surrounding freshwater and climate have been made in the past decadet. New ground- and space-based sensors collect far more water- and climate-related data in the 21st century than in the past. Improvements in both regional and global hydrological and climatological modeling have permitted far greater understanding of water and climate links and risks. And more water management institutions and managers are beginning to integrate information about past and future climatic variability into water system planning, design, and construction. Recent observational evidence indicates that the impacts of human-caused climatic changes can now be observed in some regions for a wide range of water resources, including changing evaporative demand associated with rising temperatures, dramatic changes in snow and ice, alterations in precipitation patterns and storm, rising sea levels, and effects on aquatic ecosystems.

General Overviews

The expanding ability to study and model complex atmospheric processes began to lead to an improved understanding of the links between climatic factors and the earth’s water balance at regional and global scales (Peixóto and Oort 1983). Since the mid- to late-1980s, core hydrology textbooks and syntheses such as those by Hornberger, et al. 2014 and Chow, et al. 1988 were integrating climate science and climatology. Early reviews of how human-caused climate change may affect hydrologic processes and managed water resources include Gleick 1989 and Leavesley 1994 with a focus on integrating regional hydrologic models with either output from general circulation models of the climate or hypothetical climate scenarios. Most recently, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has produced a series of reports over the years on a wide range of climate science, technology, and policy, including work directly focused on the issue of freshwater resources. The 2008 IPCC Technical Paper on Climate Change and Water addresses the interconnections among climate, freshwater, and biophysical and socioeconomic systems and touches on the links between rising sea levels and coastal freshwater systems and discusses adaptation of water systems to climate change (Bates, et al. 2008). Kundzewicz, et al. 2008 summarizes key findings on the impacts of climate change for freshwater systems and infrastructure. Whitehead, et al. 2009 reviewed the links between climate change and water quality. More recently, the IPCC Fifth Assessment by Jiménez Cisneros and Taikan Oki 2014 released an updated assessment of freshwater and climate in the impacts, adaptation, and vulnerability report. In the United States, Georgakakos, et al. 2014 prepared a comprehensive overview of climate and water impacts for the U.S. Global Change Research Program and the U.S. National Academy of Sciences assessed both model projections and current observations.

  • Bates, B., Z. W. Kundzewicz, S. Wu, and J. Palutikof. 2008. Climate change and water. Geneva, Switzerland: Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

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    The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports are among the most important, integrated, international assessments of climate science. This specific report summarizes the science around climate and water as of the mid-2000s.

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  • Chow, V. T., D. R. Maidment, and L. W. Mays. 1988. Applied hydrology. McGraw-Hill Series in Water Resources and Environmental Engineering. New York: McGraw-Hill.

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    One of the all-time classic hydrologic textbooks.

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  • Georgakakos, A., P. Fleming, M. Dettinger, et al. 2014. Water Resources. In Climate Change Impacts in the United States: The Third National Climate Assessment. Edited by J. M. Melillo, Terese (T.C.) Richmond, and G. W. Yohe, 69–112. U.S. Global Change Research Program.

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    The United States prepares a periodic national assessment of climate science. This paper provides a comprehensive summary of the water resource findings for the third such assessment.

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  • Gleick, P. H. 1989. Climate change, hydrology, and water resources. Reviews of Geophysics 27.3: 329–344.

    DOI: 10.1029/RG027i003p00329Save Citation »Export Citation »

    An early comprehensive review of methods for assessing climate and water impacts.

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  • Hornberger, George M., Patricia L. Wiberg, Jeffrey P. Raffensperger, and Paolo D’Odorico. 2014. Elements of Physical Hydrology. Johns Hopkins Univ. Press.

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    A leading textbook on physical hydrology, including information on climate change and water.

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  • Jiménez Cisneros, Blanca E., and Taikan Oki. 2014. Freshwater resources. In Climate change 2014: Impacts, adaptation, and vulnerability. Part A: Global and sectoral aspects. Contribution of Working Group II to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Edited by C. B. Field, V. R. Barros, D. J. Dokken, et al., 229–269. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.

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    The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) includes detailed assessments of impacts, adaptation, and risk. This paper summarizes the freshwater-related science on climate change for the IPCC.

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  • Kundzewicz, Z. W., L. J. Mata, N. W. Arnell, et al. 2008. The implications of projected climate change for freshwater resources and their management. Hydrological Sciences Journal 53.1: 3–10.

    DOI: 10.1623/hysj.53.1.3Save Citation »Export Citation »

    This paper summarizes the key findings of the freshwater chapter of the fourth IPCC assessment, focused on projections of climate change impacts on freshwater resources and implications for management, adaptation, and risk.

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  • Leavesley, George H. 1994. Modeling the effects of climate change on water resources—a review. In Assessing the impacts of climate change on natural resource systems. Edited by Kenneth D. Frederick and Norman J. Rosenberg, 159–177. Dordrecht: Springer Netherlands.

    DOI: 10.1007/978-94-011-0207-0_8Save Citation »Export Citation »

    A comprehensive review as of the mid-1990s of the first-generation assessments of the impacts of climate change for water resources.

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  • National Research Council. 2012a. Climate change: Evidence, impacts, and choices: Set of 2 booklets, with DVD. Washington DC: National Academies Press.

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    A comprehensive review from the US National Academy of Sciences on the science of climate change risks in the United States.

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  • Peixóto, José P., and Abraham H. Oort. 1983. The atmospheric branch of the hydrological cycle and climate. In Variations in the global water budget. Edited by Alayne Street-Perrott, Max Beran, Robert Ratcliffe, 5–65. Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Springer.

    DOI: 10.1007/978-94-009-6954-4_2Save Citation »Export Citation »

    An early discussion of how to integrate hydrologic variables into global water budget modeling and climate models.

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  • Whitehead, P. G., R. L. Wilby, R. W. Battarbee, M. Kernan, A. J. Wade. 2009. A review of the potential impacts of climate change on surface water quality. Hydrological Sciences Journal 54.1: 101–123.

    DOI: 10.1623/hysj.54.1.101Save Citation »Export Citation »

    A good summary of the direct and indirect impacts of climate change on water quality, with some regional examples, as of the mid-2000s.

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The Study of Past Water-Climate Interactions: Climate Forcings, Analytical Tools

Early assessments of climate and hydrology, such as Duckstein, et al. 1987; Georgakakos and Kavvas 1987; Gupta and Duckstein 1975; and Rodriguez-Iturbe and Isham 1987 often relied on statistical approaches using available historical instrumental data—typically limited to the past 150 years or so—and applying statistical tools to extrapolate data on precipitation, runoff or extreme events into the future. As techniques for studying ancient climatic conditions—paleoclimates—have greatly improved, Kutzbach and Guetter 1986, Barron and Peterson 1989, Barron, et al. 1981 presented the first tools to extend climatological records far into the past. These tools include both direct sampling of indicators and computer simulations that use early climate forcings such as solar output, orbital dynamics, ancient atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations, and even early continental positions and ocean circulation patterns. More recent assessments such as Koutsoyiannis and Montanari 2007 extend our understanding of statistical factors such as persistence and uncertainty in paleoclimate studies, and the work of Slater and Villarini 2018 on newer methods for integrating both statistical and dynamical tools. Masson-Delmotte, et al. 2013 provides the best recent comprehensive summary of the approaches and conclusions of paleoclimatic assessments for variables such as temperature, precipitation, drought and flood frequency, and more.

  • Barron, Eric J., and William H. Peterson. 1989. Model simulation of the Cretaceous ocean circulation. Science 244.4905: 684.

    DOI: 10.1126/science.244.4905.684Save Citation »Export Citation »

    An integration of model simulations and testing of paleoclimatological data to evaluate premodern ocean circulation.

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  • Barron, Eric J., Starley L. Thompson, and Stephen H. Schneider. 1981. An ice-free Cretaceous? Results from climate model simulations. Science 212.4494: 501.

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    By evaluating early climatic conditions, such as during the Cretaceous period, climate modelers can validate model performance and expand our understanding of ancient climate dynamics.

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  • Duckstein, Lucien, Bernard Bobee, and Istvan Bogardi. 1987. Bayesian forecasting of hydrologic variables under changing climatology. IAHS Publ 168:301–311.

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    Limitations on observations of climatic parameters requires the use of statistical techniques to expand historical records and improve forecasting under conditions of climate change.

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  • Georgakakos, Konstantine P., and M. Levent Kavvas. 1987. Precipitation analysis, modeling, and prediction in hydrology. Reviews of Geophysics 25.2: 163–178.

    DOI: 10.1029/RG025i002p00163Save Citation »Export Citation »

    A statistical analysis of precipitation records and tools showing how longer-term information can be derived from shorter-term records.

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  • Gupta, Vijay K., and Lucien Duckstein. 1975. A stochastic analysis of extreme droughts. Water Resources Research 11.2: 221–228.

    DOI: 10.1029/WR011i002p00221Save Citation »Export Citation »

    An early statistical assessment of the risks of extreme droughts, evaluating ground-based observations.

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  • Koutsoyiannis, Demetris, and Alberto Montanari. 2007. Statistical analysis of hydroclimatic time series: Uncertainty and insights. Water Resources Research 43.5.

    DOI: 10.1029/2006WR005592Save Citation »Export Citation »

    Paleoclimatic and historical data must be carefully evaluated for both uncertainty and statistical variability in order to be useful for water managers and planners.

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  • Kutzbach, John E., and Peter J. Guetter. 1986. The influence of changing orbital parameters and surface boundary conditions on climate simulations for the past 18 000 years. Journal of the Atmospheric Sciences 43.16: 1726–1759.

    DOI: 10.1175/1520-0469(1986)043<1726:TIOCOP>2.0.CO;2Save Citation »Export Citation »

    Global climate models can be used to evaluate ancient climatic conditions and forcing factors such as orbital parameters as well as greenhouse gas concentrations. This paper summarizes results from GCM model runs, including changes in precipitation patterns, monsoon effects, and more.

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  • Masson-Delmotte, V., M. Schulz, A. Abe-Ouchi, et al. 2013. Information from paleoclimate archives. In Climate change 2013: The physical science basis. Contribution of Working Group I to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Cambridge, UK, and New York: Cambridge Univ. Press.

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    The most recent comprehensive summary of paleoclimatic information on ice, rainfall, temperature, and other past climatic conditions is found in this chapter from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, fifth assessment.

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  • Rodriguez-Iturbe, Ignacio, and Valerie Isham. 1987. Some models for rainfall based on stochastic point processes. Proc. R. Soc. Lond. A 410.1839: 269–288.

    DOI: 10.1098/rspa.1987.0039Save Citation »Export Citation »

    In order to increase understanding of temporal and spatial variability in hydrologic records, stochastic tools have been developed and tested on point data.

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  • Slater, Louise J., and Gabriele Villarini. 2018. Enhancing the predictability of seasonal streamflow with a statistical-dynamical approach. Geophysical Research Letters 45.13: 6504–6513.

    DOI: 10.1029/2018GL077945Save Citation »Export Citation »

    Integrating both statistical approaches and hydrologic dynamics can improve the predictability of seasonal variables such as streamflow.

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The Study of Past Water-Climate Interactions: Paleohydroclimatology

Among the most important direct sampling approaches for paleoclimate studies are tree-ring analyses, pollen and varve data, isotopic studies, and long-term ice cores. These provide insights for extending climatological records into the past and improving the ability of hydrologists and water managers to understand and manage hydrologic extremes. The work of Meko, et al. 1995; Salzer and Kipfmueller 2005; Briffa, et al. 1992; and Stahle, et al. 2000 present tree-ring studies that provide insights into the variability of temperature, precipitation, and runoff in the southwestern United States and insight into the frequency and intensity of droughts. Gasse 2000 characterized the climate of the past several thousand years in the African tropics using geomorphology, sedimentology, and isotopic analysis. Koch, et al. 1995 prepared one of the first reconstructions of ancient climates from ice cores from glaciers and the Antarctic using carbon isotope analysis. Barnola, et al. 1987; Petit, et al. 1999; and Jouzel, et al. 1987 helped pioneer analyses of the atmospheric composition of ancient air trapped in ice cores. Mischel, et al. 2015 and Tadros, et al. 2016 describe the use of isotopic assessments of cave drip water to assess long-term precipitation, evaporation, and large-scale hydroclimatic fluctuations.

  • Barnola, J.-M., D. Raynaud, Y. S. Korotkevich, and C. Lorius. 1987. Vostok ice core Provides 160,000-year record of atmospheric CO2. Nature 329.6138: 408.

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    A key study reporting on paleoclimatic data from Antarctic ice cores, including records of atmospheric carbon dioxide and temperature.

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  • Briffa, Keith R., P. D. Jones, and F. H. Schweingruber. 1992. Tree-ring density reconstructions of summer temperature patterns across western North America since 1600. Journal of Climate 5.7: 735–754.

    DOI: 10.1175/1520-0442(1992)005<0735:TRDROS>2.0.CO;2Save Citation »Export Citation »

    Tree-ring studies such as this one provide vital paleoclimatic reconstructions of past temperature. These are useful for climate impact assessments and for testing and validating climate models.

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  • Gasse, Françoise. 2000. Hydrological changes in the African tropics since the last glacial maximum. Quaternary Science Reviews 19.1–5: 189–211.

    DOI: 10.1016/S0277-3791(99)00061-XSave Citation »Export Citation »

    This paper characterizes the climate of the past several thousand years in the African tropics using a range of paleoclimatic tools including geomorphology, sedimentology, and isotopic analysis.

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  • Jouzel, Jean, C. Lorius, J. R. Petit, et al. 1987. Vostok ice core: A continuous isotope temperature record over the last climatic cycle (160,000 years). Nature 329.6138: 403.

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    A key paper on the paleoclimatic findings from the long-term Vostok ice cores from Antarctica, reporting on 160,000 years of temperature variations.

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  • Koch, Paul L., James C. Zachos, and David L. Dettman. 1995. Stable isotope stratigraphy and paleoclimatology of the paleogene Bighorn Basin (Wyoming, USA). Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 115.1–4: 61–89.

    DOI: 10.1016/0031-0182(94)00107-JSave Citation »Export Citation »

    An example of the use of isotope stratigraphy for evaluating regional paleoclimatic conditions.

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  • Meko, David, Charles W. Stockton, and William R. Boggess. 1995. The tree-ring record of severe sustained drought. JAWRA Journal of the American Water Resources Association 31.5: 789–801.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1752-1688.1995.tb03401.xSave Citation »Export Citation »

    The use of paleoclimatic tools, such as tree rings, has permitted expansion of understanding of the statistics of extreme hydrologic events. This paper provides an analysis of the long-term risks of severe and sustained drought in the southwestern United States using tree rings.

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  • Mischel, Simon A., Denis Scholz, and Christoph Spötl. 2015. δ 18 O values of cave drip water: A promising proxy for the reconstruction of the North Atlantic Oscillation? Climate Dynamics 45.11–12: 3035–3050.

    DOI: 10.1007/s00382-015-2521-5Save Citation »Export Citation »

    Isotopic assessments of cave drip water can be used as a proxy to evaluate long-term major hydroclimatic variability driven by large-scale dynamics such as the North Atlantic Oscillation.

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  • Petit, Jean-Robert, Jean Jouzel, Dominique Raynaud, et al. 1999. Climate and atmospheric history of the past 420,000 years from the Vostok ice core, Antarctica. Nature 399.6735: 429.

    DOI: 10.1038/20859Save Citation »Export Citation »

    A key paleoclimatic assessment of temperature and carbon dioxide concentrations over 420,000 years using ice cores from Antarctica.

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  • Salzer, Matthew W., and Kurt F. Kipfmueller. 2005. Reconstructed temperature and precipitation on a millennial timescale from tree-rings in the southern Colorado Plateau, USA. Climatic Change 70.3: 465–487.

    DOI: 10.1007/s10584-005-5922-3Save Citation »Export Citation »

    Paleoclimatic reconstructions of temperature and precipitation are reported here for a major watershed in the western United States.

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  • Stahle, David W., Edward R. Cook, Malcolm K. Cleaveland, et al. 2000. Tree-ring data document 16th century megadrought over North America. Eos, Transactions American Geophysical Union 81.12: 121–125.

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    Evidence from tree rings suggests far more severe droughts in North American than were previously projected using instrumental records alone.

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  • Tadros, Carol V., Pauline C. Treble, Andy Baker, et al. 2016. ENSO–cave drip water hydrochemical relationship: A 7-year dataset from south-eastern Australia. Hydrology and Earth System Sciences 20.11: 4625–4640.

    DOI: 10.5194/hess-20-4625-2016Save Citation »Export Citation »

    Cave drip water can be used as a paleohydrologic indicator to evaluate regional hydrologic conditions as influenced by large-scale climate dynamics such as El Niño and La Niña conditions.

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The Use of Paleoclimate Studies for Water Management and Policy

The studies of early climate and water interactions have important implications for water management and policy decisions. For example, the tree-ring assessments in the southwestern United States provided the first evidence in Gleick 1988; Brown 1988, Woodhouse and Lukas 2006, and McCabe and Wolock 2007 that the legal water allocations along the Colorado River among the seven U.S. states and Mexico were based on an anomalously wet period at the turn of the 20th century, and that the long-term average flow was substantially lower than the amounts used in developing the interstate water allocations and the international agreement with Mexico. In Gangopadhyay, et al. 2019, paleohydrologic reconstructions of streamflow in the western United States is shown to be useful for regional evaluation of wet versus dry period risks and determining water management approaches for extended low-flow periods. Conversely, Ballesteros-Cánovas, et al. 2015 comprehensively review tree-ring records to provide detailed information on flood risks and suggestions for applying this approach.

  • Ballesteros-Cánovas, J. A., M. Stoffel, S. St. George, and Katherine Hirschboeck. 2015. A review of flood records from tree rings. Progress in Physical Geography 39.6: 794–816.

    DOI: 10.1177/0309133315608758Save Citation »Export Citation »

    This paper provides a major comprehensive review of the use of tree rings for flood assessments, risk analysis of flood types, and recommendations for future research.

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  • Brown, Barbara G. 1988. Climate variability and the Colorado River compact: Implications for responding to climate change. In Societal Responses to Regional Climatic Change. Westview, Boulder, Colorado. Edited by Michael H. Glantz, 279–304. Boulder, CO: Westview Press.

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    An early assessment of how climate changes could affect the Colorado River, with a focus on the legal and political rules that govern water allocation in the basin.

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  • Gangopadhyay, Subhrendu, Gregory McCabe, Gregory Pederson, Justin Martin, and Jeremy S. Littell. 2019. Risks of hydroclimatic regime shifts across the western United States. Scientific Reports 9.1: 6303.

    DOI: 10.1038/s41598-019-42692-ySave Citation »Export Citation »

    As climate changes, it is vital to understand the risks of changes in the hydrologic regime, including the frequency and persistence of wet and dry periods. Using paleoclimatic records, this paper assesses the likelihood of such changes in 105 sites around the western United States and develop a method for evaluating the future risk of changes that have implications for water management and allocations.

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  • Gleick, P. H. 1988. The effects of future climatic changes on international water resources: The Colorado River, the United States, and Mexico. Policy Sciences 21.1: 23–39.

    DOI: 10.1007/BF00145120Save Citation »Export Citation »

    One of the first analysis of how climate changes might affect both the hydrology and the political agreements about water allocation developed for the Colorado River states and the US–Mexico international agreement.

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  • McCabe, Gregory J., and David M. Wolock. 2007. Warming may create substantial water supply shortages in the Colorado River basin. Geophysical Research Letters 34.22.

    DOI: 10.1029/2007GL031764Save Citation »Export Citation »

    This study evaluates the impacts of warming on streamflow in the Colorado River basin using a regional water-balance model and analyzes the results in the context of the long-term tree-ring reconstruction of streamflow for the basin.

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  • Woodhouse, Connie A., and Jeffrey J. Lukas. 2006. Multi-century tree-ring reconstructions of Colorado streamflow for water resource planning. Climatic Change 78.2–4: 293–315.

    DOI: 10.1007/s10584-006-9055-0Save Citation »Export Citation »

    Tree-ring reconstructions of between three hundred and six hundred years in length applied to runoff in major sub-basins of the Colorado River.

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The Study of Past Water-Climate Interactions: Local Human Influence on Hydrology and Climate

Even before the scientific community began to tackle the complexities of how human-induced climate change would affect hydrology, there was a growing awareness of the effect of local human actions on climate and water variables, such as Huff and Changnon 1973, Shukla and Mintz 1982, and Dickinson and Henderson-Sellers 1988 on how changes in urban land use and landscapes, tropical deforestation, or other modifications might affect precipitation and evapotranspiration patterns. Landsberg 1981 offered an early comprehensive assessment of how urban landscape changes could alter local climatic conditions. Taha 1997 described how growing dense urban areas have long been known to alter local temperature patterns and evaporation. Bornstein and Lin 2000 showed how they have also been seen to influence local precipitation patterns. Arnold and Gibbons 1996 and Miller, et al. 2014 evaluated the effect of human activities such as expanding impervious surface areas on groundwater recharge and surface water quality. Vitousek, et al. 1997 described a wide range of human influences on natural ecosystems, including disruptions of the hydrologic cycle through land transformations, diversion and contamination of rivers, overdraft of groundwater, and alterations of climate. Wanders and Wada 2015 provides a more recent assessment of the relative influence of reservoir and human water use compared to climatic factors, arguing for better integration of multiple variables in hydroclimatic analyses.

  • Arnold, Chester L., and C. James Gibbons. 1996. Impervious surface coverage: The emergence of a key environmental indicator. Journal of the American Planning Association 62.2: 243–258.

    DOI: 10.1080/01944369608975688Save Citation »Export Citation »

    Impervious urban landscapes play a key role in worsening stormwater runoff. By reducing such areas, the flooding risk of extreme precipitation events can be reduced.

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  • Bornstein, Robert, and Qinglu Lin. 2000. Urban heat islands and summertime convective thunderstorms in Atlanta: Three case studies. Atmospheric Environment 34.3: 507–516.

    DOI: 10.1016/S1352-2310(99)00374-XSave Citation »Export Citation »

    Local human influence on the climate includes land use changes such as urban developments that alter temperatures and convective atmospheric patterns. This paper provides case studies of such influence.

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  • Dickinson, Robert E., and Ann Henderson-Sellers. 1988. Modelling tropical deforestation: A study of GCM land-surface parametrizations. Quarterly Journal of the Royal Meteorological Society 114.480: 439–462.

    DOI: 10.1002/qj.49711448009Save Citation »Export Citation »

    Local and regional land-use changes, such as tropical deforestation, as local climate impacts and implications for large-scale model design and parametrizations.

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  • Huff, F. A., and S. A. Changnon, Jr. 1973. Precipitation modification by major urban areas. Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society 54.12: 1220–1232.

    DOI: 10.1175/1520-0477(1973)054<1220:PMBMUA>2.0.CO;2Save Citation »Export Citation »

    Urban developments are known to affect local climatic conditions. This paper provided some of the earliest analysis of impacts of urban areas on precipitation.

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  • Landsberg, Helmut E. 1981. The urban climate. Vol. 28. San Diego, CA: Academic Press.

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    An early review of the links between urban developments and impacts on local climatic conditions.

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  • Miller, James D., Hyeonjun Kim, Thomas R. Kjeldsen, John Packman, Stephen Grebby, and Rachel Dearden. 2014. Assessing the impact of urbanization on storm runoff in a peri-urban catchment using historical change in impervious cover. Journal of Hydrology 515:59–70.

    DOI: 10.1016/j.jhydrol.2014.04.011Save Citation »Export Citation »

    The role of urban development in altering local hydrology is summarized here with a focus on stormwater runoff and the implications of impervious land cover.

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  • Shukla, J., and Y. Mintz. 1982. Influence of land-surface evapotranspiration on the earth’s climate. Science 215.4539: 1498.

    DOI: 10.1126/science.215.4539.1498Save Citation »Export Citation »

    Early climate models confirmed that patterns of rainfall, temperature, and atmospheric motion strongly depend on the land-surface evapotranspiration, leading to new efforts to improve parameterizations in numerical models.

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  • Taha, Haider. 1997. Urban climates and heat islands: Albedo, evapotranspiration, and anthropogenic heat. Energy and Buildings 25.2: 99–103.

    DOI: 10.1016/S0378-7788(96)00999-1Save Citation »Export Citation »

    Urban developments are shown to alter local climates, including albedo/reflectivity of surfaces, evapotranspiration rates, and temperature. This paper discusses these alterations.

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  • Wanders, N., and Y. Wada. 2015. Human and climate impacts on the 21st century hydrological drought. Journal of Hydrology 526:208–220.

    DOI: 10.1016/j.jhydrol.2014.10.047Save Citation »Export Citation »

    Human influence on climate change must include local factors such as reservoir construction and operation and human use of water in order to better understand the relative impacts and to model both impacts and adaptive responses.

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  • Vitousek, Peter M., Harold A. Mooney, Jane Lubchenco, and Jerry M. Melillo. 1997. Human domination of earth’s ecosystems. Science 277.5325: 494–499.

    DOI: 10.1126/science.277.5325.494Save Citation »Export Citation »

    A comprehensive assessment of the wide range of human influences on natural ecosystems, including disruptions of the hydrologic cycle through land transformations, diversion and contamination of rivers, overdraft of groundwater, and alterations of climate. The paper estimates that more than half of all accessible surface fresh water is put to use by humanity.

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Treating Water and Climate in Global Models

As computer technology improved, scientists launched the first efforts to develop analytical models capable of simulating aspects of both hydrology and climatology, first separately and then together. By the mid-1960s, some of the first integrated climate and hydrology models, especially those from the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory in Princeton, began to emerge capable of reproducing many interesting features of the atmosphere, including both major regional and seasonal characteristics, as seen in the work of Smagorinsky, et al. 1965; Manabe, et al. 1965; Manabe 1969; and Manabe and Holloway 1975. As general circulation models (GCMs) improved, Manabe and Wetherald 1985 evaluated the impacts of rising greenhouse gas concentrations on hydrologic variability. Because of limitations in computing speed and geographical resolution, early models such as those of Mahrt and Pan 1984 often focused on maximizing the accuracy of hydrological simulations with a minimum of complexity. Improvements in computer models and speeds now permit GCMs to include far higher resolution assessments with much improved hydrologic resolution and relationships, leading to an expansion of assessments of the impacts of climate on local, regional, and global hydrology, including those of Prudhomme, et al. 2014; Wanders, et al. 2015; Vansteenkiste, et al. 2014; and Harding, et al. 2014.

  • Harding, Richard J., Graham P. Weedon, Henny A. J. van Lanen, and Douglas B. Clark. 2014. The future for global water assessment. Journal of Hydrology 518:186–193.

    DOI: 10.1016/j.jhydrol.2014.05.014Save Citation »Export Citation »

    A summary of the impacts of climate change for water resources using high-resolution climate models and model intercomparisons.

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  • Mahrt, Lawrence, and H. Pan. 1984. A two-layer model of soil hydrology. Boundary-Layer Meteorology 29.1: 1–20.

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    When limited computer time or complexity constrained models, simpler approaches were developed to study soil hydrology, groundwater flows, and other hydrologic factors.

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  • Manabe, Syukuro. 1969. Climate and the ocean circulation 1: I. The atmospheric circulation and the hydrology of the earth’s surface. Monthly Weather Review 97.11: 739–774.

    DOI: 10.1175/1520-0493(1969)097<0739:CATOC>2.3.CO;2Save Citation »Export Citation »

    The earliest integration of hydrology into global climate models was done by Manabe’s group at the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory at Princeton University. This classic paper summarizes some of the first approaches in this field.

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  • Manabe, Syukuro, and J. Leith Holloway. 1975. The seasonal variation of the hydrologic cycle as simulated by a global model of the atmosphere. Journal of Geophysical Research 80.12: 1617–1649.

    DOI: 10.1029/JC080i012p01617Save Citation »Export Citation »

    One of the first assessments of seasonal hydrologic variability in a global climate model.

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  • Manabe, Syukuro, Joseph Smagorinsky, and Robert F. Strickler. 1965. Simulated climatology of a general circulation model with a hydrologic cycle. Monthly Weather Review 93.12: 769–798.

    DOI: 10.1175/1520-0493(1965)093<0769:SCOAGC>2.3.CO;2Save Citation »Export Citation »

    One of the first efforts to integrate key components of the hydrologic cycle into early global climate models.

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  • Manabe, Syukuro, and Richard T. Wetherald. 1985. CO2 and hydrology. Advances in Geophysics 28:131–157.

    DOI: 10.1016/S0065-2687(08)60222-8Save Citation »Export Citation »

    The work of Manabe and Wetherald to parameterize hydrologic functions was central to the development of all modern general circulation models of the climate.

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  • Prudhomme, Christel, Ignazio Giuntoli, Emma L. Robinson, et al. 2014. Hydrological droughts in the 21st century, Hotspots and uncertainties from a global multimodel ensemble experiment. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 111.9: 3262–3267.

    DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1222473110Save Citation »Export Citation »

    Future drought severity can be estimated from an ensemble of global models (hydrological and climate models). Using thirty-five simulations, the authors project a likely increase in the global severity of drought by the end of 21st century, with regional hotspots.

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  • Smagorinsky, Joseph, Syukuro Manabe, and J. Leith Holloway. 1965. Numerical results from a nine-level general circulation model of the atmosphere. Monthly Weather Review 93.12: 727–768.

    DOI: 10.1175/1520-0493(1965)093<0727:NRFANL>2.3.CO;2Save Citation »Export Citation »

    One of the earliest global climate models is described here, including the role of water and the hydrologic cycle.

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  • Vansteenkiste, Thomas, Mohsen Tavakoli, Victor Ntegeka, et al. 2014. Intercomparison of hydrological model structures and calibration approaches in climate scenario impact projections. Journal of Hydrology 519:743–755.

    DOI: 10.1016/j.jhydrol.2014.07.062Save Citation »Export Citation »

    This paper investigates the effects of hydrological model structure and calibration on climate change impact in hydrology and conducts a detailed regional case study for Belgium.

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  • Wanders, Niko, Yoshi Wada, and HAJ Van Lanen. 2015. Global hydrological droughts in the 21st century under a changing hydrological regime. Earth System Dynamics 6.1: 1.

    DOI: 10.5194/esd-6-1-2015Save Citation »Export Citation »

    This paper quantifies the impact of climate change on future low flows and associated hydrological drought characteristics on a global scale using an approach that considers adaptation to future changes in hydrological regimes.

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Water and Climate as Treated in Regional Models

The limitations in geographical resolution also led to early efforts to integrate projections from general circulation models of the climate with more detailed regional hydrologic models that used temperature and precipitation forecasts from large-scale GCMs, sometimes together with hypothetical climate scenarios, to evaluate water impacts for particular regions. A series of early studies, including the early work of Revelle and Waggoner 1983, Riebsame 1988, Gleick 1988, and Nash and Gleick 1991 used a combination of statistically based models and physical water-balance models to evaluate consequences for the Colorado River in the southwestern United States. Gleick 1986, Gleick 1987, and Lettenmaier and Sheer 1991 applied similar tools to evaluate climate impacts in major California river basins, while McCabe and Ayers 1989 did similar work on the Delaware River basin in the eastern United States. Recent comprehensive assessments include Huang, et al. 2017, which evaluates a range of regional models in large-scale hydrologic basins around the world, and Hattermann, et al. 2017, which does a cross-comparison of nine regional and nine large-scale hydrologic models in eleven major river basins, showing the relative advantages of regional models.

  • Gleick, P. H. 1986. Methods for evaluating the regional hydrologic impacts of global climatic changes. Journal of Hydrology 88.1–2: 97–116.

    DOI: 10.1016/0022-1694(86)90199-XSave Citation »Export Citation »

    One of the earliest papers integrating output from general circulation models with more detailed regional hydrologic models. This paper was one of the first to highlight potential risks to mountain snowpack and runoff timing.

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  • Gleick, P. H. 1987. The development and testing of a water balance model for climate impact assessment: Modeling the Sacramento Basin. Water Resources Research 23.6: 1049–1061.

    DOI: 10.1029/WR023i006p01049Save Citation »Export Citation »

    Results from an early regional climate impact assessment using global climate model and hypothetical climate scenarios to evaluate impacts on hydrology in California.

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  • Gleick, P. H. 1988. The effects of future climatic changes on international water resources: The Colorado River, the United States, and Mexico. Policy Sciences 21.1: 23–39.

    DOI: 10.1007/BF00145120Save Citation »Export Citation »

    An assessment of the hydrologic and political implications of climate change for the Colorado River using both hypothetical climate scenarios of changes in temperature and precipitation as well as using forcings from general circulation models of the climate.

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  • Hattermann, F. F., V. Krysanova, Simon N. Gosling, et al. 2017. Cross-scale intercomparison of climate change impacts simulated by regional and global hydrological models in eleven large river basins. Climatic Change 141.3: 561–576.

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    A comprehensive assessment of nine regional and nine global hydrologic models in eleven large river basins under reference and climate scenario conditions.

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  • Huang, Shaochun, Rohini Kumar, Martina Flörke, et al. 2017. Evaluation of an ensemble of regional hydrological models in 12 large-scale river basins worldwide. Climatic Change 141.3: 381–397.

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    This study compares the performance of a range of regional hydrologic models in twelve large-scale river basins.

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  • Lettenmaier, D. P., and D. Sheer. 1991. Climatic sensitivity of California water resources. Journal of Water Resources Planning and Management 117.1: 108–125.

    DOI: 10.1061/(ASCE)0733-9496(1991)117:1(108)Save Citation »Export Citation »

    An early assessment of the sensitivity of California water resources to climatic variability in the form of changes in temperature and precipitation.

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  • McCabe, Gregory J., and Mark A. Ayers. 1989. Hydrologic effects of climate change in the Delaware River Basin. JAWRA Journal of the American Water Resources Association 25.6: 1231–1242.

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    Among the earliest efforts to look at the regional impacts of climate change was this assessment of climate change and the Delaware River Basin. This paper looked at how changes in temperature and precipitation would affect soil moisture and runoff.

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  • Nash, L. L., and P. H. Gleick. 1991. Sensitivity of streamflow in the Colorado Basin to climatic changes. Journal of Hydrology 125.3–4: 221–241.

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    A key early study evaluating how changes in temperature and precipitation forecasts from climate models, as well as hypothetical future scenarios of these variables, would affect runoff, hydropower generation, and water deliveries from the Colorado River.

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  • Revelle, R. R., and P. E. Waggoner. 1983. Effects of a carbon dioxide-induced climatic change on water supplies in the western United States. Month 419:432.

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    The use of statistical tools and hypothetical climate changes to evaluate consequences of human caused climate change for western US water resources.

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  • Riebsame, William E. 1988. Adjusting water resources management to climate change. Climatic Change 13.1: 69–97.

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    An early paper on how water managers and management systems should integrate climate change information into operations.

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Water and Climate: Observational Technologies and Data

The availability of data helps reduce the impacts of extreme hydrologic events. For many variables, the spatial and temporal coverage of observational networks varies dramatically from excellent to inadequate. The World Meteorological Organization 2014 notes that continuous and consistent observations of hydrological variables requires integrated terrestrial and satellite observation systems together with effective data archiving and distribution. As remote-sensing technology evolved, efforts were launched to collect climatological and hydrological variables that had scientists had previously been unable to assess or that governments were unable or unwilling to finance. In the early 1980s, the first scientific assessment project of the World Climate Research Programme, described by Schiffer and Rossow 1983, was to evaluate cloud climatology using new satellite systems. At the time, cloud dynamics had not been integrated into climate models even though cloud feedback effects were known to be important. Similarly, new satellite sensors were beginning to acquire snow data—another variable for which surface data collection was inadequate as noted by Rango, et al. 1979. Today a massive increase in the types and amounts of data collected by satellites, drones, and even smartphone technologies provide far more information than in the past. McCabe, et al. 2017, for example, estimate that several hundred earth-observing systems are currently measuring precipitation, snow cover extent, land cover, evaporation, topography, land use, and elements of catchment- and continental-scale water balances. More difficult to study are river runoff, vertical profiles of water vapor, details of snow water equivalents and permafrost, and water quality. Many of these variables are sensitive to climate change and still require more costly ground-based observational networks. Understanding the impacts of climate change on freshwater also requires comprehensive data on demographics, water use, and agricultural patterns. The UN FAO AQUASTAT database is the most broad and consistent such data at present, but even these data suffer from inconsistent or limited reporting by nations and uncertainty over appropriate metrics. While such data offer new opportunities for modeling and analysis, McCabe, et al. 2017 and Lettenmaier, et al. 2015 raise questions about the ability of models to assimilate and use these data and about quality, accuracy, and consistency. Partly in response to these issues, a working group of the International Association of Hydrological Sciences is developing and disseminating observational techniques that help better understand the hydrological cycle, and the climate modeling community has established standards for data structure, formatting, and archiving that permits scientists to consistently access and use hydrologic and other data from a wide range of climate models through the Coupled Model Intercomparison Program (CMIP) (Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory 2018).

Projected Impacts of Climate Change on Water Resources

Several methods have been developed to generate information on impacts of climate change on other variables, including water resources. Early assessments by Giorgi and Mearns 1991 and Wilby and Wigley 1997 describe empirical and statistical regression approaches using climate forcings created from instrumental data records or paleoclimatic analogues; semi-empirical approaches using large-scale GCMs forced with changes in atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations; or downscaling or mesoscale tools to increase model resolution over limited areas. A major focus of research in hydroclimatology, described by Milly, et al. 2005 has been to develop methods of forecasting regional, higher resolution impacts using lower resolution general circulation models of the climate and to evaluate ensembles of climate models for the qualitative and statistically significant skill in simulating observed patterns of streamflow or precipitation. Because early generations of GCMs have higher skill in forecasting at continental and hemispheric rather than regional or watershed spatial scales, Xu 1999a and Xu 1999b went into “downscaling” approaches to produce more reliable regional forecasts. As global models improved, efforts to assess hydrologic impacts of climate change across different model platforms have identified some consistent results, including changes to precipitation and evaporation patterns, impacts on runoff, and exacerbation of local and regional water scarcity (Schewe, et al. 2014; Haddeland, et al. 2014; Gosling and Arnell 2016). Impacts on the cryosphere are also expected to be especially severe, including Arctic ice and loss of land-based glaciers such as the hydrology of the Himalayas, as described by Xu, et al. 2009 and summarized by the National Research Council 2012b.

  • Giorgi, Filippo, and Linda O. Mearns. 1991. Approaches to the simulation of regional climate change: A review. Reviews of Geophysics 29.2: 191–216.

    DOI: 10.1029/90RG02636Save Citation »Export Citation »

    This paper provides an early review of methods for evaluating regional climate changes given coarse geographical scales of general circulation models.

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  • Gosling, Simon N., and Nigel W. Arnell. 2016. A global assessment of the impact of climate change on water scarcity. Climatic Change 134.3: 371–385.

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    A comprehensive effort to assess the risks of global climate changes for water availability and “scarcity” at a regional level.

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  • Haddeland, Ingjerd, Jens Heinke, Hester Biemans, et al. 2014. Global water resources affected by human interventions and climate change. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 111.9: 3251–3256.

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    A comprehensive recent review of links between human actions, climate change, and water resources.

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  • Milly, P. C. D., K. A. Dunne, and A. V. Vecchia. 2005. Global pattern of trends in streamflow and water availability in a changing climate. Nature 438 (November): 347.

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    This paper evaluates an ensemble of twelve climate models for their qualitative and statistically significant skill in simulating observed continental scale patterns of multidecadal changes in streamflow.

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  • National Research Council. 2012b. Himalayan glaciers: Climate change, water resources, and water security. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.

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    An assessment by the US National Academy of Sciences of the impacts of climate change on water resources and water security of Southern Asia due to melting of Himalayan glaciers.

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  • Schewe, Jacob, Jens Heinke, Dieter Gerten, et al. 2014. Multimodel assessment of water scarcity under climate change. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 111.9: 3245–3250.

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    Water scarcity under conditions of climate change is evaluated in a range of climate models. Concludes that climate change is likely to worsen regional and global water scarcity considerably: for example, a global warming of 2.7 °C above preindustrial will increase the percent of the world’s population with severe water scarcity by 15 percent.

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  • Wilby, R. L., and T. M. L. Wigley. 1997. Downscaling general circulation model output: A review of methods and limitations. Progress in Physical Geography: Earth and Environment 21.4: 530–548.

    DOI: 10.1177/030913339702100403Save Citation »Export Citation »

    Due to the coarse geospatial resolution of climate models, tools have been developed to “downscale” model output to regional levels permitting more detailed impact assessments. This paper reviews these methods.

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  • Xu, Chong-yu. 1999a. From GCMs to river flow: A review of downscaling methods and hydrologic modelling approaches. Progress in Physical Geography: Earth and Environment 23.2: 229–249.

    DOI: 10.1177/030913339902300204Save Citation »Export Citation »

    Methods for downscaling information from global climate models for hydrologic assessments of runoff.

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  • Xu, Chong-yu. 1999b. Climate change and hydrologic models: A review of existing gaps and recent research developments. Water Resources Management 13.5: 369–382.

    DOI: 10.1023/A:1008190900459Save Citation »Export Citation »

    The inability of large-scale climate models to represent local subgrid-scale hydrologic features and dynamics is discussed in this paper, with methods for narrowing the gap between climate model ability and the need of hydrologic modelers.

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  • Xu, Jianchu, R. Edward Grumbine, Arun Shrestha, et al. 2009. The melting Himalayas: Cascading effects of climate change on water, biodiversity, and livelihoods. Conservation Biology 23.3: 520–530.

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    The impacts of melting Himalayan glaciers on water, biodiversity, and a range of socioeconomic conditions in Asia are discussed here.

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Observed Impacts of Climate Change on Water Resources

Observations increasingly show hydrologic trends that fall outside of expectations if the climate system was stable, leading to the conclusion by Milly, et al. 2008 that “stationarity is dead” and a growing field of attribution analysis such as those by Risser and Wehner 2017 and Fischer and Knutti 2014 that links human-caused climate change with observed hydrologic trends in runoff, precipitation, and other variables. Modern remote sensing platforms have expanded the ability to evaluate long-term trends in the terrestrial water cycle, including providing more comprehensive estimates of land surface evapotranspiration and precipitation, which previously had been limited to point estimates from land-based stations or more general estimates from early generations of satellite sensors (Mueller, et al. 2013). Impacts on groundwater have been less frequently studied because of the lack of comprehensive ground-based data and the difficulty of developing remote sensing platforms able to evaluate changes in aquifers. The GRACE satellite system is an important exception, providing some of the first evidence described by Doell, et al. 2014 and Richey, et al. 2015 of large-scale changes in groundwater storage around the world, albeit at a relatively coarse scale. Taylor, et al. 2012 assessed climate effects on groundwater, groundwater-driven feedbacks on the climate system, and possible use of groundwater in climate adaptation strategies. Integrated assessments of both projected and observed impacts of climate change have been produced by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change assessments and more focused regional analyses such as the US Global Change Research Program reports (Bates 2009; Melillo, et al. 2014; Field, et al. 2014).

  • Bates, Bryson. 2009. Climate change and water: IPCC Technical Paper VI. Geneva, Switzerland: World Health Organization.

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    The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) technical report summary of the science around climate and water as of the mid-2000s.

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  • Doell, Petra, Hannes Mueller Schmied, Carina Schuh, Felix T. Portmann, and Annette Eicker. 2014. Global-scale assessment of groundwater depletion and related groundwater abstractions: Combining hydrological modeling with information from well observations and GRACE satellites. Water Resources Research 50.7: 5698–5720.

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    Groundwater use and depletion is poorly studied with limited collection of local data. The GRACE satellite system greatly expanded information on groundwater at the global scale.

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  • Field, Christopher B., Vicente R. Barros, K. Mach, and M. Mastrandrea. 2014. Climate change 2014: Impacts, adaptation, and vulnerability. Vol. 1. Cambridge and New York: Cambridge Univ. Press.

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    This overarching science summary of climate impacts and adaptation is part of the key IPCC assessments.

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  • Fischer, Erich M., and Reto Knutti. 2014. Detection of spatially aggregated changes in temperature and precipitation extremes. Geophysical Research Letters 41.2: 547–554.

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    Observations are increasingly showing statistically significant changes in climatic variables and linking those changes to anthropogenic climate change. This paper discusses the “detection” issue in the context of temperature and precipitation extremes.

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  • Melillo, J. M., T. C. Richmond, and G. W. Yohe. 2014. The Third National Climate Assessment. US Global Change Research Program.

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    The most comprehensive assessment of the science of climate change in the United States is the official National Climate Assessments. This report is a summary of the third assessment, completed in 2014.

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  • Milly, Paul C. D., Julio Betancourt, Malin Falkenmark, et al. 2008. Stationarity is dead: Whither water management? Science 319.5863: 573–574.

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    This paper helped popularize the phrase “Stationarity is Dead” as a way to describe the need to move beyond the use of historical statistical (and stationary) conditions in assessments of water management and argues for integrating climate change into water infrastructure planning and design.

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  • Mueller, Brigitte, Martin Hirschi, C. Jimenez, et al. 2013. Benchmark products for land evapotranspiration: LandFlux-EVAL multi-data set synthesis. Hydrology and Earth System Sciences 17.10: 3707–3720.

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    Modern remote sensing technologies have greatly expanded available hydrologic information, such as in this creation of a comprehensive evapotranspiration database.

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  • Richey, Alexandra S., Brian F. Thomas, Min-Hui Lo, et al. 2015. Quantifying renewable groundwater stress with GRACE. Water Resources Research 51.7: 5217–5238.

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    The use of remote sensing platforms for evaluating groundwater stress was not possible before the GRACE satellite system. This paper summarizes that system and the results for groundwater use around the world.

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  • Risser, Mark D., and Michael F. Wehner. 2017. Attributable human-induced changes in the likelihood and magnitude of the observed extreme precipitation during Hurricane Harvey. Geophysical Research Letters 44.24.

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    Evidence that human-caused climate changes are influencing extreme events is growing. This paper assesses the role such changes had on extreme precipitation during Hurricane Harvey.

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  • Taylor, Richard G., Bridget Scanlon, Petra Döll, et al. 2012. Ground water and climate change. Nature Climate Change 3 (November):322.

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    A comprehensive look at how climate change can affect groundwater recharge, discharge, and storage, worldwide.

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Projected and Observed Impacts of Climate Change on Human-Built Water Systems

While many of the impacts of climate change will be felt through changes in climatological and hydrological variables, a complicating factor is the extensive physical and institutional infrastructure that has been put in place to manage human demands for water, including dams on rivers to produce hydroelectricity or provide flood and drought protections, water extraction and delivery systems that move water substantial distances from watersheds and groundwater basins to urban and agricultural users, water purifications systems to produce potable water for drinking and higher-valued urban uses, and wastewater collection and treatment plants. Climate changes will have direct impacts on many of these systems by altering water supplies and demands, and indirect impacts by altering environmental, physical, and economic conditions in which they operate (Olmstead 2014; Stratz and Hossain 2014; Poff, et al. 2016; National Research Council 2011; Williams 1989). For example, rising sea levels as a result of climate changes will greatly increase the risk of flooding and damage to wastewater treatment plants, which are often located right at sea level in coastal regions (Heberger, et al. 2011). Early assessments included efforts to evaluate how climatic variability might affect reservoir operating rules and water management decisions by looking the sensitivity of runoff and storage using statistical and deterministic tools (Němec and Schaake 1982; Revelle and Waggoner 1983). Water planners and managers must learn how to use information on climate changes to reassess institutional rules and guidelines for operating water systems to account for changes in the statistical nature of extreme events or physical and chemical changes in water supplies and demands (Varis, et al. 2004; American Water Works Association 1997).

  • American Water Works Association. 1997. Committee report—climate change and water resources. Journal-American Water Works Association 89.11: 107–110.

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    An early acknowledgement and assessment of risks to water systems by a national water management organization, with recommendations for managers to integrate climate science into planning and management.

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  • Heberger, Matthew, Heather Cooley, Pablo Herrera, Peter H. Gleick, and Eli Moore. 2011. Potential impacts of increased coastal flooding in California due to sea-level rise. Climatic Change 109.1: 229–249.

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    This paper assesses a wide range of risks of sea-level rise for the coast of California, including explicitly the threats to wastewater treatment plants.

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  • National Research Council. 2011. Adapting to the impacts of climate change. Washington, DC: National Academies Press.

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    A review from the US National Academy of Sciences of issues around adaptation to climate change, including water resources.

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  • Němec, J., and John Schaake. 1982. Sensitivity of water resource systems to climate variation. Hydrological Sciences Journal 27.3: 327–343.

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    One of the earliest discussions about possible impacts of climate variability for water resource systems.

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  • Olmstead, Sheila M. 2014. Climate change adaptation and water resource management: A review of the literature. Energy Economics 46 (November): 500–509.

    DOI: 10.1016/j.eneco.2013.09.005Save Citation »Export Citation »

    A comprehensive literature review, including economic perspectives, on adapting water management systems to climate change.

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  • Poff, N. LeRoy, Casey M. Brown, Theodore E. Grantham, et al. 2016. Sustainable water management under future uncertainty with eco-engineering decision scaling. Nature Climate Change 6.1: 25.

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    This paper offers a decision-making tool that explores trade-offs in engineering and ecological performance metrics across a range of future hydrological and climate conditions.

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  • Revelle, R. R., and P. E. Waggoner. 1983. Effects of a carbon dioxide-induced climatic change on water supplies in the western United States. Month 419:432.

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    One of the earliest assessments to project possible consequences of human-caused climate change for water resources, focused on impacts in the western United States.

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  • Stratz, Steven A., and Faisal Hossain. 2014. Probable maximum precipitation in a changing climate: Implications for dam design. Journal of Hydrologic Engineering 19.12: 06014006.

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    As information is developed on changes in hydrology due to climate change, water infrastructure designers and managers will have to integrate that information into their work. This paper discusses the implications of changes in precipitation extremes on the design of dams.

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  • Williams, Philip. 1989. Adapting water resources management to global climate change. Climatic Change 15.1–2: 83–93.

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    An early paper looking at strategies for adapting water systems to climate changes.

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  • Varis, Olli, Tommi Kajander, and Risto Lemmelä. 2004. Climate and water: From climate models to water resources management and vice versa. Climatic Change 66.3: 321–344.

    DOI: 10.1023/B:CLIM.0000044622.42657.d4Save Citation »Export Citation »

    Recent developments in testing climate scenarios in models and evaluating impacts on hydrology, water resources management, design, and policymaking are presented. The paper offers suggestions for bridging the problem of temporal and spatial scales for both modelers and water managers.

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Adaptation Strategies for Water Systems

Making use of new information on the non-stationarity of climate is a challenge for water managers who are typically trained to use tools developed under static climatic conditions (Feldman and Ingram 2009). Successful adaption to climate changes will require water managers to institute new strategies for risk assessment, risk reduction, and improving resilience to extreme events, described by Arnell and Delaney 2006; Kiparsky, et al. 2012; and Pahl-Wostl 2007, or to redesign physical infrastructure to reduce hydrologic risks. Successful adaptation will require different strategies for different kinds of water systems, including agriculture, under different kinds of political and economic regimes (Smit and Pilifosova 2003; Huq, et al. 2004; Piao, et al. 2010; Gleick 2003). Even well-developed water systems such as those in the western United States will face challenges in adapting to the impacts of climate change for water systems (Tanaka, et al. 2006; Hayhoe, et al. 2004; MacDonald 2010; Connell-Buck, et al. 2011).

  • Arnell, Nigel W., and E. Kate Delaney. 2006. Adapting to climate change: Public water supply in England and Wales. Climatic Change 78.2: 227–255.

    DOI: 10.1007/s10584-006-9067-9Save Citation »Export Citation »

    A case study of how public water systems in England and Wales should think about, and manage, for a changing climate.

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  • Connell-Buck, Christina R., Josué Medellín-Azuara, Jay R. Lund, and Kaveh Madani. 2011. Adapting California’s water system to warm vs. dry climates. Climatic Change 109.1: 133–149.

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    This paper evaluates warm and dry climatic scenarios of future water supply and the implications for California’s complex water system.

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  • Feldman, David L., and Helen M. Ingram. 2009. Making science useful to decision makers: Climate forecasts, water management, and knowledge networks. Weather, Climate, and Society 1.1: 9–21.

    DOI: 10.1175/2009WCAS1007.1Save Citation »Export Citation »

    The difficulty of integrating climate change projections into water management and decision making is addressed here, with recommendations for how to make such projections useful.

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  • Gleick, P. H. 2003. Global freshwater resources: Soft-path solutions for the 21st century. Science 302.5650: 1524.

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    Elaboration of the a “soft path for water” concept of sustainability, including the need to integrate climate change into long-term planning and management.

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  • Hayhoe, Katharine, Daniel Cayan, Christopher B. Field, et al. 2004. Emissions pathways, climate change, and impacts on California. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 101.34: 12422–12427.

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    Overview of the risks of climate change for California, including water resources, under different greenhouse gas scenario emission pathways.

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  • Huq, Saleemul, Hannah Reid, Mama Konate, Atiq Rahman, Youba Sokona, and Florence Crick. 2004. Mainstreaming adaptation to climate change in Least Developed Countries (LDCs). Climate Policy 4.1: 25–43.

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    Climate adaptation strategies will differ depending on a wide range of technical, economic, and hydrological factors. This paper looks at adaptation from the perspective of equity and poorer less developed economies.

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  • Kiparsky, Michael, Anita Milman, and Sebastian Vicuña. 2012. Climate and water: Knowledge of impacts to action on adaptation. Annual Review of Environment and Resources 37.1: 163–194.

    DOI: 10.1146/annurev-environ-050311-093931Save Citation »Export Citation »

    A review article addressing how to integrate scientific information on climate and water into actions by water managers and other policymakers.

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  • MacDonald, Glen M. 2010. Water, climate change, and sustainability in the southwest. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 107.50: 21256–21262.

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    A comprehensive assessment of water challenges in the US southwest, including a discussion of the science of attributing climatic extremes to human-caused climate change.

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  • Pahl-Wostl, Claudia. 2007. Transitions towards adaptive management of water facing climate and global change. Water Resources Management 21.1: 49–62.

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    The role of adaptive management in addressing risks of water resources in the face of climate changes.

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  • Piao, Shilong, Philippe Ciais, Yao Huang, et al. 2010. The impacts of climate change on water resources and agriculture in China. Nature 467.7311: 43.

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    A wide range of regional impact assessments have been done, but this important paper addresses the links between climate, water, and food production in China.

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  • Smit, Barry, and Olga Pilifosova. 2003. Adaptation to climate change in the context of sustainable development and equity. Sustainable Development 8.9: 9.

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    Strategies for adapting to climate change will vary with level of development and other socioeconomic factors. The implications for equity are discussed here.

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  • Tanaka, Stacy K., Tingju Zhu, Jay R. Lund, et al. 2006. Climate warming and water management adaptation for California. Climatic Change 76.3–4: 361–387.

    DOI: 10.1007/s10584-006-9079-5Save Citation »Export Citation »

    Examines the ability of California’s water supply system to adapt to long-term climatic and demographic factors using two climate warming and one historical climate scenario, including changes in population and land use, to the year 2100.

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