Capturing climate-change data – sometimes it IS rocket science

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Sometimes it’s easiest to see the effects of climate change from above – way above.

Thanks to a $1 million grant from NASA’s Earth Science Division, an interdisciplinary team of researchers from Arizona State University’s School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment has been working with Central Arizona Project on a comprehensive evaluation of climate and land-use changes and how these impact the Colorado River Basin. And, now, NASA’s Earth-observing satellites – as well as ground data from the US Geological Survey, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and other entities – is starting to generate more data that will help in future Colorado River Basin modeling.

Stakeholders are reviewing this data to decide how it can be most valuable. The research team for this study, known as the “Long-Range Scenario Modeling of the Colorado River Basin Project” has identified Collaborative Modeling and Discussion Groups (Co-Mods) focused on using the satellite data for a model set-up and testing phase, analyzing scenarios and disseminating project results.

The five initial project Co-Mods proposed by the research team are:

  1. Selection of climate models for use in scenario planning
  2. Land cover change scenarios for non-urban areas
  3. Useful metrics to summarize model outcomes
  4. Value of remote sensing products for model evaluations
  5. Landscape survey of active and relevant research in the Colorado River Basin

In addition to CAP and ASU, involved stakeholders include:

  • Arizona Department of Water Resources
  • Colorado Department of Natural Resources
  • Colorado River Board of California
  • Colorado River District
  • Colorado Water Conservation Board
  • Denver Water
  • Metropolitan Water District of Southern California
  • New Mexico Interstate Stream Commission
  • Southern Nevada Water Authority
  • Upper Colorado River Commission
  • U.S. Bureau of Reclamation
  • Utah Division of Water Resources
  • Wyoming State Engineer’s Office

Ultimately, this data will be used to analyze the impacts of climate change on the Colorado River and in turn, to inform future decisions regarding the future of the Colorado River as a major water supply to the West. This includes decisions by the Arizona Reconsultation Committee, which is developing an Arizona perspective on the reconsultation of the Colorado River Interim Guidelines for Lower Basin Shortages and the Coordinated Operations for Lake Powell and Lake Mead, known as the 2007 Guidelines.