30 June 2011

MGhydro on Twitter, 20110630 edition

Continued from the previous edition, these are items appropriate to this blog that I have tweeted, RT'd, MT'd, or HT'd in the past few days up through the evening of the date in the post title.  You can follow me on Twitter to get these in real time, and I welcome contributions by comment, e-mail and @MGhydro

26 June (Sunday)
27 June (Monday)
28 June (Tuesday)
29 June (Wednesday)
30 June (Thursday)

25 June 2011

MGhydro on Twitter, 20110625 edition

Continued from the previous edition, these are items appropriate to this blog that I have tweeted, RT'd, MT'd, or HT'd in the past few days up through the evening of the date in the post title.  You can follow me on Twitter to get these in real time, and I welcome contributions by comment, e-mail and @MGhydro

22 June (Wednesday) 
23 June (Thursday) 
24 June (Friday) 
25 June (Saturday) 
  • I really like reading Brian Fagan ("Elixir" with review coming soon) and realized why this week-- (1/3)
  • he writes like your favorite friendly prof in a grad seminar, as if telling you what he's done on his own expeditions... (2/3)
  • and he makes me look stuff up in his older books to understand it better and make sure I get it right. (3/3)
  • ? Fletcher et al. 2008, Antiquity, v.82 no.317 pp.658–670 "The water management network of Angkor, Cambodia"  

23 June 2011

Forests and Water, part 1: Where there's smoke...

Author's Note: the following is derived from a project proposal to the National Science Foundation (NSF) that I co-authored in 2009 with a colleague at Northern Arizona University (NAU).  More context on the narrative given here is provided in part 0 of this series.

Photograph of the 2011 Wallow Fire in eastern Arizona by John Burfiend,
provided by the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC),
Southwest Coordination Center (SWCC)
Global climate change and regional drought, coupled with population growth and traditional forest resource management policies, have led to land cover changes and resource challenges across the southwestern U.S. Scientists, researchers, and natural resource managers seek to understand the hydro-ecological impacts of climate variability while the needs of the community, the spread of invasive species, and the threat of catastrophic forest fires persist. Vast quantities of data are collected by state and federal agencies, municipalities, researchers, and watershed management groups using a wide variety of technologies and methods, producing numerous data types of highly variable accuracy and often oriented on specific management tasks. There is a compelling need to integrate the numerous observational datasets, process-oriented models and decision-making tools that are used by resource managers to protect important ecosystem aspects and services including forest health, water quality, and water quantity.

The complexity of managing forest and water resources on both public and private lands, and in the context of widely varied physical and societal pressures, makes it necessary for researchers and decision-makers to develop efficient methods for handling, exchange, and re-use of datasets for multiple purposes. Standardized and often automated data access has become an unstated necessity for research intended to support planning and decision-making on short-term (daily to annual) time scales and for long-term policy development. Integration of datasets and analytical tools can help improve data mining methods for information discovery and access. More specifically, water resources and forest health officials must assimilate a consistent stream of information on historic and current climate, meteorological analyses, the status and trends of the resources under management, and the implications of potential future climate and hydrologic conditions in making decisions that will meet ecological and societal needs. Long-term observational datasets in combination with remote sensing and geospatial products can form the basis for predictive models, but the quality of model output depends inherently on accurate input information.

Runoff from forested areas in the western U.S. contributes a significant portion of the flow in streams and the storage volume in reservoirs [1]. In disturbed areas, such as a burned hillslope, degradation or absence of organic material promotes disproportionate runoff and erosion from the hillslopes and deposition of undesirable sediments in the receiving waters, often leading to flood events in streams and the degradation of water quality throughout the resource system [2]. Healthy forests serve both hydrological and ecological functions, retaining water that is more slowly released from stable hillslope soil to receiving streams, all the time providing biochemical processing through ecological functions that lead to significant water quality improvements. The causal differences between an often dry ephemeral stream that is prone to flash floods and supports little biological diversity, and a perennial stream along which ecological processes contribute to biodiversity and in which flood events occur in a natural pattern that enhances riparian health and diversity, can often be found in a brief survey of the hillslopes contributing to that stream reach. The former scenario may indicate recent disturbance or an external forcing that is not in balance with the established ecosystem (e.g., climate change), and thus a candidate area for "ecological restoration" efforts where a pressing need is determined. In the latter scenario, vegetated catchment areas and riparian buffers function as natural water filters, contributing an "ecosystem service" in which a healthy balance of ecology and hydrology may be observed.

Natural resources and environmental quality are at risk of wildfire across 190 million acres of American forests and rangeland. Wildfires have affected more than three million acres in Arizona since 2002, destroying hundreds of structures and causing significant damage to forests, rangelands, watersheds, wildlife and fish habitats, and invaluable natural and cultural resources. Recent data from the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC) indicate that Arizona experienced yearly forest losses to wildfires in one decade at nearly seven times the average annual rate over the prior century [3]. The severity of fires has intensified as well, posing an increasing threat to life and property. Spatial analysts have identified 3,350 square miles of wildland–urban interface (WUI) in more than 150 Arizona communities [4, 5] that could be susceptible to wildfire.

Large, severe fires are symptomatic of poor forest health that may be caused or exacerbated by prolonged drought and invasive species. Studies suggest that recent morbidity in piñon and ponderosa pine trees across the Southwest, attributed primarily to bark beetles, is probably more extensive and severe than previous events because of unusually warm conditions during the present drought [6]. In a larger sense, conditions of long-term hydrologic drought in the Southwest may actually be the "new normal" as a regional impact of global climate change [7, 8]. Recent high-profile scientific reports have attempted to focus national and international attention on the triplet of climate change, drought, and water supplies. Most prominent are the 4th Assessment Report of the IPCC [9], Synthesis and Assessment Product 4.3 of the U.S. Climate Change Science Program [10], and a report by the U.S. Global Change Research Program [11]. Some studies have raised concerns about water in the Southwest, including a U.S. National Research Council report [12] and a report released by the Pew Center on Global Climate Change [13]. Studies have addressed specific issues of concern such as climate change and water resources management in the Colorado River Basin, most notably Garrick et al. [14] and a federal multi-agency effort led by the USGS [15]. The consensus among climate models indicates higher temperatures to come in the Southwest, but a lack of clear consensus among models for precipitation over the Southwest suggests that the region could see increased variability in precipitation occurrence and intensity, factors that can affect forest health and fire regime significantly [16].

Recent studies indicate that climate change impacts on ecosystems in the western U.S. have already begun, and that the Southwest is far from prepared for the possibility of long-term drought within the larger context of persistent global warming. When an accumulated precipitation deficit due to extended drought is combined with higher temperatures, these factors lead to greater moisture stress in forest species and greater fire risk in forested areas. Adams et al. [17] and van Mantgem et al. [18] concluded that regional warming has helped to accelerate tree mortality across the West. An increase in large western forest fires is correlated with warming and the earlier arrival of spring [19], conditions that are also correlated with diminished winter snowpack and earlier snowmelt runoff in the region [20, 21, 22, 23]. Rapid climate change can lead to cascading effects, from tree mortality [6] to increased catastrophic disturbance such as forest fires [24] to shifting zones of species-specific habitat suitability that will alter forest patterns across the West [25, 26].

Finally, in addition to long-term climatological effects on forest health through drought and rapid climate change, we observe also that forested lands in Arizona occur in the direct path of annual North American monsoon (NAM) [27] moisture flows from the Pacific Ocean and Gulf of California to the Colorado Plateau. Mountainous areas in the American Southwest, such as the Mogollon Rim that stretches across Arizona, provide orographic meteorological forcing that enhances the development of summer thunderstorms, especially during the NAM season. Cloud-to-ground lightning produced by these thunderstorms often strikes in the very locations where orographically-enhanced rainfall has made the surface more hospitable to forest survival and growth, and is recognized as the proximate cause of most forest fires in the Southwest [28, 29].

The condition of a forested watershed has a direct impact on both the quantity and quality of water supplies that are available for human and ecosystem uses. The size, density, species composition and other aspects of the forest ecosystem affect the partitioning of precipitation to runoff, which eventually appears in streams as surface water and may ultimately recharge groundwater aquifers. Recent trends toward larger and more severe forest fires in the western U.S. indicate a threat to the sustainability of both evergreen and deciduous forests in semi-arid environments, as throughout Arizona, where the ecosystems might have adapted naturally to frequent, low-intensity fires that clear ground fuels on a somewhat regular basis. With fire severity we also consider the speed of forest recovery: more severe fires tend to delay re-vegetation and leave the burned area exposed to increased runoff potential and soil surface erosion during later storm events. There are direct and known connections between land cover, vegetation and water resource characteristics. However, the physical models developed for surface hydrology and water resources management are generally not compatible with the physical models that inform decisions in fire treatment and prevention and in forest and rangeland management. We aim to remedy such disparities in data and model interoperability in order to facilitate decision-making that retains the best interests of the combined community of practice, and to employ the solutions developed here as a template for the treatment of similar disparities in the application of spatial analysis and hydrologic science to the decision-making process in other communities of practice.


[1] National Research Council, 2008: Hydrologic Effects of a Changing Forest Landscape. Committee on Hydrologic Impacts of Forest Management. National Academies Press, 180 pp., ISBN 978-0-309-12108-8.

[2] Neary, D.G., K.C. Ryan, and L.F. DeBano, 2005: Wildland fire in ecosystems: effects of fire on soils and water. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Gen. Tech. Rep. RMRS-GTR-42-vol.4, 250 pp.

[3] Swetnam, T.W., and J.L. Betancourt, 1998: Mesoscale disturbance and ecological response to decadal climatic variability in the American southwest. Journal of Climate, v. 11, pp. 3128-3147, doi:10.1175/1520-0442(1998)011<3128:MDAERT>2.0.CO;2.

[4] Radeloff, V.C., R.B. Hammer, S.I. Stewart, J.S. Fried, S.S. Holcomb, and J.F. McKeefry, 2005: The wildland–urban interface in the United States. Ecological Applications, v. 15, pp. 799-805, doi:10.1890/04-1413.

[5] Stewart, S.I., V.C. Radeloff, R.B. Hammer, and T.J. Hawbaker, 2007: Defining the wildland–urban interface. Journal of Forestry, v. 105, pp. 201-207, ISSN 0022-1201.

[6] Breshears, D.D., N.S. Cobb, P.M. Rich, K.P. Price, C.D. Allen, R.G. Balice, W.H. Romme, M.L. Floyd, J. Belnap, J.J. Anderson, O.B. Myers, and C.W. Myer, 2005: Regional die-off in response to global-change-type drought. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, v. 102, pp. 15,144-15,148, doi:10.1073/pnas.0505734102.

[7] Cook, E.R., C.A. Woodhouse, C.M. Eakin, D.M. Meko, and D.W. Stahle, 2004: Long-term aridity changes in the western United States. Science, v. 306, pp. 1015-1019, doi:10.1126/science.1102586.

[8] Seager, R., M. Ting, I. Held, Y. Kushnir, J. Lu, G. Vecchi, H.-P. Huang, N. Harnik, A. Leetma, H.-C. Lau, C. Li, J. Velez, and N. Naik, 2007: Model projections of an imminent transition to a more arid climate in southwestern North America. Science, v. 316, pp. 1181-1184, doi:10.1126/science.1139601.

[9] Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), 2007: "Climate Change 2007 - Impacts, adaptation and vulnerability." In Contribution of Working Group II to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (M.L. Parry, O.F. Canziani, J.P. Palutikof, P.J. van der Linden, and C.E. Hanson, eds.), Cambridge University Press, ISBN 978-0-5218-8010-7.

[10] U.S. Climate Change Science Program, 2008: The Effects of Climate Change on Agriculture, Land Resources, Water Resources, and Biodiversity. Subcommittee on Global Change Research, Synthesis and Assessment Product 4.3, 240 pp.

[11] Karl, T.R., J.M. Melillo, and T.C. Peterson, eds., 2009: Global Climate Change Impacts in the United States. Prepared for the U.S. Global Change Research Program, Cambridge University Press, 188 pp., ISBN 978-0-521-14407-0.

[12] Smerdon, E.T., and coauthors, 2007: Colorado River Basin Water Management: Evaluating and Adjusting to Hydroclimatic Variability. National Academies Press, publication no. 11857, 222 pp., ISBN 0-309-10524-2.

[13] Bachelet, D., J.M. Lenihan, and R.P. Neilson, 2007: The importance of climate change for future wildfire scenarios in the western United States. In Regional Impacts of Climate Change: Four Case Studies in the United States, prepared for the Pew Center on Global Climate Change, 72 pp.

[14] Garrick, D., K. Jacobs, and G. Garfin, 2008: Models, assumptions and stakeholders: Planning for water supply variability in the Colorado River Basin. Journal of the American Water Resources Association, v. 44, pp. 381-398, doi:10.1111/j.1752-1688.2007.00154.x.

[15] Brekke, L.D., J.E. Kiang, J.R. Olsen, R.S. Pulwarty, D.A. Raff, D.P. Turnipseed, R.S. Webb, and K.D. White, 2009: Climate Change and Water Resources Management: A Federal Perspective. U.S. Geological Survey, Circular 1331, 65 pp., ISBN 978-1-4113-2325-4.

[16] Brown, T.J., B.L. Hall, and A.L. Westerling, 2004: The impact of twenty-first century climate change on wildland fire danger in the western United States: An applications perspective. Climatic Change, v. 62, pp. 365-388, doi:10.1023/b:clim.0000013680.07783.de.

[17] Adams, H.D., M. Guardiola-Claramonte, G.A. Barron-Gafford, J.C. Villegas, D.D. Breshears, C.B. Zou, P.A. Troch, and T.E. Huxman, 2009: Temperature sensitivity of drought-induced tree mortality portends increased regional die-off under global-change-type drought. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, v. 106, pp. 7063-7066, doi:10.1073/pnas.0901438106.

[18] van Mantgem, P.J., N.L. Stephenson, J.C. Byrne, L.D. Daniels, J.F. Franklin, P.Z. Fulé, M.E. Harmon, A.J. Larson, J.M. Smith, A.H. Taylor, and T.T. Veblen, 2009: Widespread increase of tree mortality rates in the western United States. Science, v. 323, pp. 521–524, doi:10.1126/science.1165000.

[19] Westerling, A.H., H.G. Hidalgo, D.R. Cayan, and T.W. Swetnam, 2006: Warming and earlier spring increase western U.S. forest wildfire activity. Science, v. 313, pp. 940-943, doi:10.1126/science.1128834.

[20] Barnett, T.P., J.C. Adam, and D.P. Lettenmaier, 2005: Potential impacts of a warming climate on water availability in snow-dominated regions. Nature, v. 438, pp. 303-309, doi:10.1038/nature04141.

[21] Stewart, I.T., D.R. Cayan, and M.D. Dettinger, 2005: Changes toward earlier streamflow timing across western North America. Journal of Climate, v. 18, pp. 1136-1155, doi:10.1175/JCLI3321.1.

[22] Barnett, T.P., D.W. Pierce, H.G. Hidalgo, C. Bonfils, B.D. Santer, T. Das, G. Bala, A.W. Wood, T. Nozawa, A.A. Mirin, D.R. Cayan, and M.D. Dettinger, 2008: Human-induced changes in the hydrology of the western United States. Science, v. 219, pp. 1080-1083, doi:10.1126/science.1152538.

[23] Pierce, D.W., T.P. Barnett, H.G. Hidalgo, T. Das, C. Bonfils, B.D. Santer, G. Bala, M.D. Dettinger, D.R. Cayan, A. Mirin, A.W. Wood, and T. Nozawa, 2008: Attribution of declining western U.S. snowpack to human effects. Journal of Climate, v. 21, pp. 6425-6444, doi:10.1175/2008jcli2405.1.

[24] Marlon, J.R., P.J. Bartlein, M.K. Walsh, S.P. Harrison, K.J. Brown, M.E. Edwards, P.E. Higuera, M.J. Power, R.S. Anderson, C. Briles, A. Brunelle, C. Carcaillet, M. Daniels, F.S. Hu, M. Lavoie, C. Long, T. Minckley, P.J.H. Richard, A.C. Scott, D.S. Shafer, W. Tinner, C.E. Umbanhowar Jr., and C. Whitlock, 2009: Wildfire responses to abrupt climate change in North America. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, v. 106, pp. 2519-2524, doi:10.1073/pnas.0808212106.

[25] Sisk, T.D., M. Savage, D.A. Falk, C.D. Allen, E. Muldavin, and P. McCarthy, 2005: A landscape perspective for forest restoration. Journal of Forestry, v. 103, pp. 319-320, ISSN 0022-1201.

[26] Williams, J.W., S.T. Jackson, and J.E. Kutzbach, 2007: Projected distributions of novel and disappearing climates by 2100 A.D. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, v. 104, pp. 5738-5742, doi:10.1073/pnas.0606292104.

[27] Adams, D.K., and A.C. Comrie, 1997: The North American monsoon. Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, v. 78, pp. 2197-2213, doi:10.1175/1520-0477(1997)078<2197:TNAM>2.0.CO;2.

[28] Swetnam, T.W., 1990: Fire history and climate in the southwestern United States. In Proceedings of the Symposium on Effects of Fire in Management of Southwestern U.S. Natural Resources (J.S. Krammes, Tech. Coord.), Tucson, Arizona, 15-17 November 1988. USDA Forest Service, General Technical Report, RM-191, pp. 6-17.

[29] Swetnam, T.W., and C.H. Baisan, 1996: Historical fire regime patterns in the southwestern United States since A.D. 1700. In Fire Effects in Southwestern Forests: Proceedings of the Second La Mesa Fire Symposium (C.D. Allen, Tech. Ed.), Los Alamos, New Mexico, 29-31 March 1996. USDA Forest Service, General Technical Report, RM-GTR-286, pp. 11-32.

22 June 2011

Forests and Water, part 0

Yes, indeed, I did post on forests and water earlier this year for World Wetlands Day.  This series is connected, in some ways, to things that I wrote there. This is also still the UN International Year of Forests.  And last, but not least, a big chunk of Arizona is still burning...

In 2009, while working at the University of Arizona (UA), I co-authored with a colleague at Northern Arizona University (NAU) a funding proposal to the National Science Foundation (NSF). We submitted our project proposal with the enthusiastic support of several more colleagues at NAU and UA. Eventually, after at least two rounds of review, our proposed project was declined funding.  However, that decision does not detract from the validity of the review and research material that I'll recount here. On the contrary, given that this was my own first proposal to NSF, I thought we did pretty well!

The cross-cutting NSF program to which we submitted this proposal is called "Community-based Data Interoperability Networks (INTEROP)."  This post, derived from what is essentially the proposal cover page, provides some context and background on our stated purposes and overall objectives in the proposal submission. More substantive material from the proposal text will follow immediately in Part 1 of this "Forests and Water" series.

An Interoperable Community System for the Monitoring of Forest Hydrology, Health and Wildfire Susceptibility in the Southwestern U.S.

Project Overview
We seek to aid ongoing efforts at adaptability and resilience in the forest health community by the collection and incorporation of relevant datasets and tools in appropriate physical modeling and decision support systems. We address both short-term disturbances (forest fires, meteorological drought) and long-term regime changes (climatological drought, invasive species, urban development) in forested areas. Scientists will work with forest and other resource managers in the stakeholder community to explore new and emerging predictive models and decision support tools. This project will provide data access for investigations and real-world results at the intersection of forest health, climate conditions and water supplies within watersheds. We begin with a focus in the American Southwest, but the project results will be available for application in any location of need. Community collaboration and information interoperability tools will be provided through an established web portal to support decisionmaking processes related to forest, fuels, wildfire and water resource management.

Intellectual Merit
The proposed work embraces challenges and opportunities on several levels by bringing together the disciplines of computer science, informatics, physical process modeling, data visualization, remote sensing, forest health, water resources management, climatology and meteorology, ecology, and hydrology. On the technical level we will adopt metadata, data exchange and data access standards that are consistent, and therefore interoperable, with the larger community of practice in each of these fields. For incorporation of various components, it is desirable to understand at the deepest levels both the physical processes and stakeholder values toward which decision-making is oriented; the highest level of service thus provides seamless interoperability between data sets, analysis tools, physical models, and the decision-making community. This is the level of “decision support” where leadership, analytical capability, interpersonal communication, consensus-building, and mastery of the computational tools and data sources at hand become most useful and, yet, most transparent while maintaining spatial and geographical context for the community of stakeholders and their value choices.

Broader Impacts
The condition of a forested watershed has a direct impact on the quantity and quality of water that is available for human and ecosystem uses. Various aspects of the forest ecosystem affect the partitioning of precipitation to runoff, streamflow and groundwater recharge. Recent trends toward larger and more severe forest fires in the western U.S. indicate a threat to the sustainability of forests in semi-arid environments where the ecosystems might have adapted to natural fire regimes. However, historical policies of fire suppression and now climate change have combined to threaten vast areas of the American West, and we endeavor to help mitigate such threats by supporting the decision-making processes that retain the best interests of both ecological condition and the various communities of practice involved.

More to come!

21 June 2011

MGhydro on Twitter, 20110621 edition

Continued from the previous edition, these are items appropriate to this blog that I have tweeted, RT'd, MT'd, or HT'd in the past few days up through the evening of the date in the post title.  You can follow me on Twitter to get these in real time, and I welcome contributions by comment, e-mail and @MGhydro

18 June (Saturday)
19 June (Sunday)
20 June (Monday)
  • "Energy and Water: Efficiency, Generation, Management, and Climate Impacts," 31 July - 3 Aug 2011, Chicago IL --  
  • SOLVE? I am so useless now... RT successfully uses virtual crowdsourcing to help solve world water crisis  
  • "Russia's EuroSibEnergo, Chinese co-sign cooperation agreement" including 2 hydropower dams in Siberia via  
  • MT Miss. River levee repairs may cost $1B. Should flood mgmt practices be addressed by citizens first?  
  • MT : Floods displace hundreds in SE Saskatchewan. More rain on way. Wettest May-June on record
  • MT : $12M Inter-American Development Bank loan granted to improve water supply in Guyana
  • MT : I'll say! Via water districts scramble as MWD puts 225K AF on sale for $409/AF. That's cheap!
    • From "The Big Thirst" -- 1 AF = 325,851 gal; avg $ for 1 AF to a US family ~$1056, a Las Vegas family ~$883, an Imperial Valley farmer ~$19.
    • Cost to US taxpayers for Las Vegas water supply reasonably incl. partial function of Hoover Dam, $49M in 1931, $3.76B by GDP inflation today
    • But the investment in Hoover Dam has paid for itself several times over the 80 yrs since then with power sales (anyone know exact stats?)
    • Cost to US taxpayers for Imperial Valley water supply reasonably incl. part function of Alamo, Coachella, All-American Canals + Imperial Dam
    • Financials on these projects, most of them originally part of the Boulder Canyon Project (which auth'd Hoover Dam) are far more complicated.
    • And given current effort at lining All-American Canal, costs continue to accrue...
    • Let's just say for now that those costs have been repaid (not likely), so consider benefits to economy as per "The Big Thirst" discussion...
    • Imperial Valley receives ~1.6M AF and generates ~$1.5B in economic activity per year, almost all as wages and food value...
    • Las Vegas receives ~280,000 AF of water per year (net after credits) and generates ~$8.8B in economic activity, almost all as wages alone...
    • Las Vegas tourism has an economic impact per gallon of water ~24x that of Imperial Valley farming, but where would we be without that food?
  • RT : sensationalistic post missing lots of context. Grr MT : More Dangerous Than Nuclear: Floods Caused by Aging Dams
  • Many farm fish to survive, US just for "sport" MT : Enviro impact research urged for fish farming: SciDev.Net
  • Flawed argument in aggregate equiv. to big dams... RT : SciDevNet: Small hydro could add up to big damage
21 June (Tuesday)