The interactions of the water resources on and within the surface of the Earth with the atmosphere that surrounds it are exceedingly complex. Increased uncertainty can be attached to the availability of water of usable quality in the 21st century, therefore, because of potential anthropogenic changes in the global climate system. For the U.S. Geological Survey to continue to fulfill its mission with respect to assessing the Nation's water resources, an expanded program to study the hydrologic implications of climate uncertainty will be required. The goal for this program is to develop knowledge and information concerning the potential water-resources implications for the United States of uncertainties in climate that may result from both anthropogenic and natural changes of the Earth's atmosphere. Like most past and current water-resources programs of the Geological Survey, the climate-uncertainty program should be composed of three elements: (1) research, (2) data collection, and (3) interpretive studies. However, unlike most other programs, the climate-uncertainty program necessarily will be dominated by its research component during its early years.
Critical new concerns to be addressed by the research component are (1) areal estimates of evapotranspiration, (2) hydrologic resolution within atmospheric (climatic) models at the global scale and at mesoscales, (3) linkages between hydrology and climatology, and (4) methodology for the design of data networks that will help to track the impacts of climate change on water resources. Other ongoing activities in U.S. Geological Survey research programs will be enhanced to make them more compatible with climate-uncertainty research needs.
The existing hydrologic data base of the Geological Survey serves as a key element in assessing hydrologic and climatologic change. However, this data base has evolved in response to other needs for hydrologic information and probably is not as sensitive to climate change as is desirable. Therefore, as measurement and network-design methodologies are improved to account for climate-change potential, new data-collection activities will be added to the existing programs. One particular area of data-collection concern pertains to the phenomenon of evapotranspiration.
Interpretive studies of the hydrologic implications of climate uncertainty will be initiated by establishing several studies at the river-basin scale in diverse hydroclimatic and demographic settings. These studies will serve as tests of the existing methodologies for studying the impacts of climate change and also will help to define subsequent research priorities. A prototype for these studies was initiated in early 1988 in the Delaware River basin.
Additional Publication Details
USGS Numbered Series
Water resources in the twenty-first century; a study of the implications of climate uncertainty