They developed a new technique to determine when to empty reservoirs in the winter for flood control and when to refill them in the spring to provide storage for the coming year. Computer simulations showed that switching to the new management system under a warmer future climate would lessen summer losses in hydropower due to climate change by about a quarter.
It would also bolster flows for fish by filling reservoirs more reliably. At the same time the approach reduced the risk of flooding. The findings are published in the Journal of Water Resources Planning and Management.
"There are anticipated dramatic changes in the snowpack which ultimately will affect when the water comes into the Columbia's reservoirs," said co-author Alan Hamlet, a UW research assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering who works in the UW's Climate Impacts Group. "We were trying to develop new tools and procedures for changing flood control operating rules in response to these changes in hydrology, and to test how well they work in practice."
"Changes in flood control operations constitute only one climate-change adaptation strategy," Hamlet added, "but our study shows that incorporating climate change in flood management plans can improve the performance of existing water systems in future climates."
Predicted hydrologic changes for the Pacific Northwest, and other mountain regions, include less springtime snowpack, earlier snow melt, earlier peaks in river flow and lower summer flows. Water managers currently use a system based on historical stream-flow records to gauge when to open and close the floodgates as part of a legally binding system that seeks to balance hydropower generation, flood risks, irrigation and other needs between regions.
The authors created a computer program that uses long-term forecasts rather than historical records to recalculate when to begin filling and emptying the major storage reservoirs in the Columbia River basin in a warmer climate. They compared historical conditions with a scenario where temperatures are 2 degrees Celsius higher on average than today, a change expected in the Pacific Northwest by the second half of this century.
The simulations suggested water managers could successfully deal with warmer conditions by refilling the system's reservoirs as much as one month earlier in the spring.
"For some locations, due to the reduced snowpack and spring peak flow we don't need to worry as much about the floods during the springtime," said lead author Se-Yeun Lee, who did the work for her doctorate at the UW and is now a UW postdoctoral researcher. "With reduced flood risk we can release less water and refill earlier. As a result we can supply more hydropower in summer and more storage for other needs like fish flows."
The project aims to help regional water managers develop methods to deal with changes in the hydrological cycle.
"In talking to water resource managers, they often feel stymied because currently there are no established analytical procedures that can be used to rebalance their system for a different climate," Hamlet said. "They see the problem, but the tools to deal with the problem are not in place."
It likely will be years before these management practices are formally changed, the authors said, but this study is a first step in that direction.
"We need to develop the tools to be able to handle a changing climate now, so we're not rushing when it becomes a problem," said co-author Stephen Burges, a UW professor of civil and environmental engineering.
Carolyn Fitzgerald, a UW graduate who is now at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Seattle, also is a co-author. Research funding was provided by the UW Climate Impacts Group.
For more information, contact Hamlet at 206-616-9361 or email@example.com and Lee at 206-543-0423 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hannah Hickey | EurekAlert!
Win-win strategies for climate and food security
02.10.2017 | International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)
The personality factor: How to foster the sharing of research data
06.09.2017 | ZBW – Leibniz-Informationszentrum Wirtschaft
University of Maryland researchers contribute to historic detection of gravitational waves and light created by event
On August 17, 2017, at 12:41:04 UTC, scientists made the first direct observation of a merger between two neutron stars--the dense, collapsed cores that remain...
Seven new papers describe the first-ever detection of light from a gravitational wave source. The event, caused by two neutron stars colliding and merging together, was dubbed GW170817 because it sent ripples through space-time that reached Earth on 2017 August 17. Around the world, hundreds of excited astronomers mobilized quickly and were able to observe the event using numerous telescopes, providing a wealth of new data.
Previous detections of gravitational waves have all involved the merger of two black holes, a feat that won the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics earlier this month....
Material defects in end products can quickly result in failures in many areas of industry, and have a massive impact on the safe use of their products. This is why, in the field of quality assurance, intelligent, nondestructive sensor systems play a key role. They allow testing components and parts in a rapid and cost-efficient manner without destroying the actual product or changing its surface. Experts from the Fraunhofer IZFP in Saarbrücken will be presenting two exhibits at the Blechexpo in Stuttgart from 7–10 November 2017 that allow fast, reliable, and automated characterization of materials and detection of defects (Hall 5, Booth 5306).
When quality testing uses time-consuming destructive test methods, it can result in enormous costs due to damaging or destroying the products. And given that...
Using a new cooling technique MPQ scientists succeed at observing collisions in a dense beam of cold and slow dipolar molecules.
How do chemical reactions proceed at extremely low temperatures? The answer requires the investigation of molecular samples that are cold, dense, and slow at...
Scientists from the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics, using high precision laser spectroscopy of atomic hydrogen, confirm the surprisingly small value of the proton radius determined from muonic hydrogen.
It was one of the breakthroughs of the year 2010: Laser spectroscopy of muonic hydrogen resulted in a value for the proton charge radius that was significantly...
17.10.2017 | Event News
10.10.2017 | Event News
10.10.2017 | Event News
20.10.2017 | Information Technology
20.10.2017 | Materials Sciences
20.10.2017 | Interdisciplinary Research