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Sources of seasonal water-supply forecast skill in the western US

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Abstract

Many water supplies in the western US depend on water that is stored in snowpacks and reservoirs during the cool, wet seasons for release and use in the following warm seasons. Managers of these water supplies must decide each winter how much water will be available in subsequent seasons so that they can proactively capture and store water and can make reliable commitments for later deliveries. Long-lead water-supply forecasts are thus important components of water managers' decisionmaking. Present-day operational water-supply forecasts draw skill from observations of the amount of water in upland snowpacks, along with estimates of the amount of water otherwise available (often via surrogates for antecedent precipitation, soil moisture or baseflows). Occasionally, the historical hydroclimatic influences of various global climate conditions may be factored in to forecasts. The relative contributions of (potential) forecast skill for January-March and April-July seasonal water- supply availability from these sources are mapped across the western US as lag correlations among elements of the inputs and outputs from a physically based, regional land-surface hydrology model of the western US from 1950-1999. Information about snow-water contents is the most valuable predictor for forecasts made through much of the cool-season but, before the snows begin to fall, indices of El Nino-Southern Oscillation are the primary source of whatever meager skill is available. The contributions to forecast skill made available by knowledge of antecedent flows (a traditional predictor) and soil moisture at the time the long-lead forecast is issued are compared, to gain insights into the potential usefulness of new soil-moisture monitoring options in the region. When similar computations are applied to simulated flows under historical conditions, but with a uniform +2°C warming imposed, the widespread diminution of snowpacks reduces forecast skills, although skill contributed by measures of antecedent moisture conditions (soil moisture or baseflows) grow in stature, relative to snowpacks, in partial compensation. Forecast skills, e.g., of March forecasts for April-July water supplies from those parts of the region that yield the majority of the runoff, decline by an average of about 15% of captured variance in response to the imposed warming.

Additional publication details

Publication type Conference Paper
Publication Subtype Conference Paper
Title Sources of seasonal water-supply forecast skill in the western US
Year Published 2007
Language English
Publisher American Geophysical Union
Contributing office(s) Branch of Regional Research-Western Region
Larger Work Type Conference Paper
Larger Work Title AGU Fall Meeting: 10-14 December 2007, 40 years in San Francisco, Calif.
Conference Title American Geophysical Union, Fall Meeting 2007
Conference Location San Francisco, California
Conference Date December 10-14 2007
Online Only (Y/N) N
Additional Online Files (Y/N) N