New Article “Special Section On Climate Change And Water Resources: Climate Nonstationarity And Water Resources Management.” By Salas Et Al 2012

Jose (Pepe) Salas of Colorado State University has alerted us to an important new paper that he has authored. It is

Salas, J., Rajagopalan, B., Saito, L., and Brown, C. (2012). ”Special Section on Climate Change and Water Resources: Climate Nonstationarity and Water Resources Management.” J. Water Resour. Plann. Manage., 138(5), 385–388. doi: 10.1061/(ASCE)WR.1943-5452.0000279

The first paragraph of the article reads [highlight added]

Over the past three decades, hydrologists and water resources specialists have been concerned with the issue of nonstationarity arising from several factors. First is the effect of human intervention on the landscape that may cause changes in the precipitation–runoff relationships at various temporal and spatial scales. Second is the occurrence of natural events such as volcanic explosions or forest fires that may cause changes in the composition of the air, the soil surface, and geomorphology. Third is the low-frequency component of oceanic–atmospheric phenomena that may have significant effects on the variability of hydrological processes such as annual runoff, peak flows, and droughts. Fourth is global warming, which may cause changes to oceanic and atmospheric processes, thereby affecting the hydrological cycle at various temporal and spatial scales. There has been a significant amount of literature on the subject and thousands of research and project articles and books published in recent decades.

Among the informative text in the article, I was pleased to see their further confirmation of land use/land cover changes as a first-order climate forcing, when they wrote

Examples of human intrusion on the landscape are the changes in land use resulting from agricultural developments in semiarid and arid lands (e.g., Pielke et al. 2007, 2011), changes caused by large-scale deforestation (e.g., Gash and Nobre 1997), changes resulting from open-pit mining operations (e.g., Salas et al. 2008), and changes from increasing urbanization in watersheds (e.g., Konrad and Booth 2002,Villarini et al. 2009)…..Large-scale landscape changes such as deforestation in the tropical regions can potentially alter atmospheric circulation patterns, and consequently affect global weather and climate (e.g., Lee et al. 2008, 2009).

With respect to natural forcings and feedbacks, they write

Major natural events, such as the volcanic explosion of Mount St. Helens in 1980 or the El Chichon volcanic explosion of 1982 induce a shock to the climate system in the form of global cooling that continues for several years. These events can also affect global circulation. Low-frequency climate drivers of the oceanic– atmospheric system such as the El Niño/Southern Oscillation (ENSO), Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO), Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation (AMO), and Arctic Oscillation (AO) modulate global climate at interannual and multidecadal time scales. These drivers are the main sources of nonstationarity in global climate and hydrology. Large numbers of papers documenting the effect of these drivers on global hydroclimatology continue to emerge (e.g., Dilley and Heyman 1995; Mantua et al. 1997; Enfield et al. 2001; Akintug and Rasmussen 2005; Hamlet et al. 2005).

With respect to “global warming“, they write

In addition to climate variability and change due to the previously mentioned factors, anthropogenic warming of the oceans and atmosphere because of increased greenhouse gas concentrations and the ensuing changes to the hydrologic cycle are topics of serious pursuit. The international scientific community is making strides in understanding the potential warming and its effects on all aspects of climate variability [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) 2007], but the impacts on the hydrologic cycle remain debatable and inconclusive (e.g., Cohn and Lins 2005; Legates et al. 2005; Hirsch and Ryberg 2011). Based on analyses of the global mean CO2 (GMCO2) and annual flood records in the United States, no strong statistical evidence for flood magnitudes increasing with GMCO2 increases were found (Hirsch and Ryberg 2011). Although general circulation models have had success in the attribution of warming global temperatures to anthropogenic causes, their credibility and utility in reproducing variables that are relevant to hydrology and water resources applications is less clear. For example, the IPCC Report for Latin America acknowledges that “the current GCMs do not produce projections of changes in the hydrological cycle at regional scales with confidence. In particular the uncertainty of projections of precipitation remain high….That is a great limiting factor to the practical use of such projections for guiding active adaptation or mitigation policies” (Magrin et al. 2007; Boulanger et al. 2007).

It is refreshing to see this broader perspective being adopted by the hydrology community.

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