From GCM Output to Local Hydrologic and Ecological Impacts: Integrating Climate Change Projections into Conservation Lands

Thursday, 18 December 2014
Stuart B Weiss1, Lisa Micheli2, Lorraine E Flint3, Alan L Flint3 and James H Thorne4, (1)Creekside Center for Earth Observation, Menlo Park, CA, United States, (2)Pepperwood Preserve, Santa Rosa, CA, United States, (3)USGS California Water Science Center Sacramento, Sacramento, CA, United States, (4)University of California Davis, Davis, CA, United States
Assessment of climate change resilience, vulnerability, and adaptation options require downscaling of GCM outputs to local scales, and conversion of temperature and precipitation forcings into hydrologic and ecological responses. Recent work in the San Francisco Bay Area, and California demonstrate a practical approach to this process. First, climate futures (GCM x Emissions Scenario) are screened using cluster analysis for seasonal precipitation and temperature, to select a tractable subset of projections that still represent the range of climate projections. Second, monthly climate projections are downscaled to 270m and the Basin Characterization Model (BCM) applied, to generate fine-scale recharge, runoff, actual evapotranspiration (AET), and climatic water deficit (CWD) accounting for soils, bedrock geology, topography, and local climate. Third, annual time-series are used to derive 30-year climatologies and recurrence intervals of extreme events (including multi-year droughts) at the scale of small watersheds and conservation parcels/networks. We take a “scenario-neutral” approach where thresholds are defined for system “failure,” such as water supply shortfalls or drought mortality/vegetation transitions, and the time-window for hitting those thresholds is evaluated across all selected climate projections. San Francisco Bay Area examples include drought thresholds (CWD) for specific vegetation-types that identify leading/trailing edges and local refugia, evaluation of hydrologic resources (recharge and runoff) provided by conservation lands, and productivity of rangelands (AET). BCM outputs for multiple futures are becoming available to resource managers through on-line data extraction tools. This approach has wide applicability to numerous resource management issues.