Climate change impacts on reservoir inflow in the United States

Monday, 15 December 2014
Bibi S Naz, Shih-Chieh Kao, Moetasim Ashfaq, Sudershan Gangrade, Rui Mei and Deeksha Ratogi, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Oak Ridge, TN, United States
This study describes the impacts of projected climate change on reservoir inflows across the United States. For this purpose, we focused on several large U.S. reservoirs where inflow to reservoir is non-regulated (i.e. unaffected by human influence or upstream regulation) and also have long-term streamflow observations. We first simulated the 1980-2012 historic hydrologic conditions using the marco-scale Variable Infiltration Capacity (VIC) hydrological model at 1/24th degree grid cell resolution. The VIC-routing model was then used to simulate and compare with observed streamflow at the selected reservoir inflow locations. To project the climate change effects on reservoir inflows, the VIC model was then driven by 12-member dynamically downscaled and bias corrected meteorological forcings ensemble, which was generated by using 12 selected Global Climate Models from Coupled Model Intercomparison Project Phase-5 as an initial and boundary conditions in a regional climate model, RegCM4. Each set of dynamical downscaling experiment was carried out at 18 km horizontal grid spacing over the continental U.S. and parts of Canada and Mexico, and consisted of 41 years in the historic period (1965-2005) and 41 years in the near-term future period (2010-2050) under the Representative Concentration Pathway 8.5. To better understand the impact of projected future changes in temperature and precipitation on shifts in streamflow discharge and distribution, and its implications on reservoir storage, temporal trends in reservoir inflows were also explored. Furthermore, hydrologic sensitivities experiments were conducted to identify the factors affecting the streamflow response to changes in precipitation and temperature. This study provides estimates for changes in the reservoir inflows over the next several decades in response to potential climate variations that can be used for optimized water supply management in the downstream areas.