J13.8 Gaps in Communicating Weather and Climate Uncertainty in Near Term Water Resources Management

Tuesday, 25 January 2011: 5:00 PM
618-620 (Washington State Convention Center)
Jade Soddell, US Bureau of Reclamation, Denver, CO; and J. P. Giovannettone and J. R. Prairie
Manuscript (106.8 kB)

A nationwide Climate Change and Water Working Group (CCAWWG) formed by the Bureau of Reclamation (Reclamation), the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and the US Geological Survey (USGS) has been working together to foster collaborative scientific efforts. As part of this effort, CCAWWG has been working to document the capabilities and capability gaps as they relate to water resource operational decisions. To ensure more valuable research, the desired capabilities and capability gaps identified should help to better align the science agencies research with water operators and management needs. One reoccurring theme throughout this process of identifying current capabilities, desired capabilities and gaps in capabilities was the need to assess, characterize and communicate uncertainties and risks associated with weather and climate information.

In a changing climate, the uncertainty in a decision varies by the type of climate information that feeds the decision. If water scheduling assumptions are based on assumptions of climate stationarity rather than a changing climate, then ultimately the decisions are vulnerabilities as well. Particularly vulnerable are the decisions that are fed by statistical models, which relate historic information to water supply and demand assumptions. Accurately communicating the uncertainty to the stakeholders – who must subsequently rely on the water schedule – is of upmost importance.

Reclamation and USACE communicate risk and uncertainty to stakeholders through different means depending on stakeholder needs and the target audience. Communication ranges from personal and conversational, to official and technical. Current efforts focus on the communication of deterministic versus probabilistic results. There is a chain of uncertainty from science to decision-makers, and communication is imperative down the line (in both directions). There is a need for science agencies to learn from the operators what forecasts and tools are useful, as well as for operators to learn about, and understand, the tools and products the science agencies can provide. It is also necessary for operators to learn from water managers, who also gain knowledge from decision-makers, what types of output are useful.

CCAWWG has identified gaps where current capabilities fall short of those needed for operational planning and scheduling. This presentation will discuss those gaps specifically related to assessing, characterizing, and communicating uncertainties related to weather and climate forecasts. The overall aim is to help bridge the communications gap between researchers and users, with the hope to guide more directed research suitable for water resource operational and management use.

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