Because of the greenhouse effect, projected increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide levels might cause global warming, which in turn could result in changes in precipitation patterns and evapotranspiration and in increases in sea level. This report describes the greenhouse effect; discusses the problems and uncertainties associated with the detection, prediction, and effects of climate change; and presents the results of sensitivity analyses of how climate change might affect water resources in the Delaware River basin.
Sensitivity analyses suggest that potentially serious shortfalls of certain water resources in the basin could result if some scenarios for climate change come true . The results of model simulations of the basin streamflow demonstrate the difficulty in distinguishing the effects that climate change versus natural climate variability have on streamflow and water supply . The future direction of basin changes in most water resources, furthermore, cannot be precisely determined because of uncertainty in current projections of regional temperature and precipitation . This large uncertainty indicates that, for resource planning, information defining the sensitivities of water resources to a range of climate change is most relevant . The sensitivity analyses could be useful in developing contingency plans for evaluating and responding to changes, should they occur.