Developing Climate-Informed Ensemble Streamflow Forecasts over the Colorado River Basin

Thursday, 18 December 2014
William P Miller1, John Lhotak2, Kevin Werner1 and Michelle Stokes3, (1)NOAA, Boulder, CO, United States, (2)NOAA Colorado Basin River Forecast Center, Salt Lake City, UT, United States, (3)NOAA, Salt Lake City, UT, United States
As climate change is realized, the assumption of hydrometeorologic stationarity embedded within many hydrologic models is no longer valid over the Colorado River Basin. As such, resource managers have begun to request more information to support decisions, specifically with regards to the incorporation of climate change information and operational risk. To this end, ensemble methodologies have become increasingly popular among the scientific and forecasting communities, and resource managers have begun to incorporate this information into decision support tools and operational models. Over the Colorado River Basin, reservoir operations are determined, in large part, by forecasts issued by the Colorado Basin River Forecast Center (CBRFC). The CBRFC produces both single value and ensemble forecasts for use by resource managers in their operational decision-making process. These ensemble forecasts are currently driven by a combination of daily updating model states used as initial conditions and weather forecasts plus historical meteorological information used to generate forecasts with the assumption that past hydroclimatological conditions are representative of future hydroclimatology. Recent efforts have produced updated bias-corrected and spatially downscaled projections of future climate over the Colorado River Basin. In this study, the historical climatology used as input to the CBRFC forecast model is adjusted to represent future projections of climate based on data developed by the updated projections of future climate data. Ensemble streamflow forecasts reflecting the impacts of climate change are then developed. These forecasts are subsequently compared to non-informed ensemble streamflow forecasts to evaluate the changing range of streamflow forecasts and risk over the Colorado River Basin. Ensemble forecasts may be compared through the use of a reservoir operations planning model, providing resource managers with ensemble information regarding changing future water supply, availability, and reservoir management. Further efforts seek to combine the utility of hydrologic models with a dynamic evapotranspiration component to evaluate impacts due to changes in evapotranspiration rates or develop unique climate patterns with the use of a stochastic weather generator.