Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Managing Pacific Northwest dams for a changing climate

22.01.2010
Civil engineers at the University of Washington and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' Seattle office have taken a first look at how dams in the Columbia River basin, the nation's largest hydropower system, could be managed for a different climate.

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 hamleaf@uw.edu and Lee at 206-543-0423 or leesy@uw.edu.

Hannah Hickey | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.uw.edu

More articles from Studies and Analyses:

nachricht Smart Data Transformation – Surfing the Big Wave
02.12.2016 | Fraunhofer-Institut für Angewandte Informationstechnik FIT

nachricht Climate change could outpace EPA Lake Champlain protections
18.11.2016 | University of Vermont

All articles from Studies and Analyses >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Electron highway inside crystal

Physicists of the University of Würzburg have made an astonishing discovery in a specific type of topological insulators. The effect is due to the structure of the materials used. The researchers have now published their work in the journal Science.

Topological insulators are currently the hot topic in physics according to the newspaper Neue Zürcher Zeitung. Only a few weeks ago, their importance was...

Im Focus: Significantly more productivity in USP lasers

In recent years, lasers with ultrashort pulses (USP) down to the femtosecond range have become established on an industrial scale. They could advance some applications with the much-lauded “cold ablation” – if that meant they would then achieve more throughput. A new generation of process engineering that will address this issue in particular will be discussed at the “4th UKP Workshop – Ultrafast Laser Technology” in April 2017.

Even back in the 1990s, scientists were comparing materials processing with nanosecond, picosecond and femtosesecond pulses. The result was surprising:...

Im Focus: Shape matters when light meets atom

Mapping the interaction of a single atom with a single photon may inform design of quantum devices

Have you ever wondered how you see the world? Vision is about photons of light, which are packets of energy, interacting with the atoms or molecules in what...

Im Focus: Novel silicon etching technique crafts 3-D gradient refractive index micro-optics

A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.

Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...

Im Focus: Quantum Particles Form Droplets

In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.

“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

ICTM Conference 2017: Production technology for turbomachine manufacturing of the future

16.11.2016 | Event News

Innovation Day Laser Technology – Laser Additive Manufacturing

01.11.2016 | Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

 
Latest News

Researchers identify potentially druggable mutant p53 proteins that promote cancer growth

09.12.2016 | Life Sciences

Scientists produce a new roadmap for guiding development & conservation in the Amazon

09.12.2016 | Ecology, The Environment and Conservation

Satellites, airport visibility readings shed light on troops' exposure to air pollution

09.12.2016 | Health and Medicine

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>