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California Basin Characterization Model: A Dataset of Historical and Future Hydrologic Response to Climate Change: U.S. Geological Survey Data Release

Prepared in cooperation with the California Water Science Center, Pepperwood Foundation, University of California at Davis, and Southwest Climate Science Center

By Lorraine E. Flint and Alan L. Flint


The Basin Characterization Model

Ongoing changes in climate are influencing water resources throughout the world, by reducing snowpack and causing snow to melt earlier in the spring, which are among the most important challenges to water availability. Climate change also impacts landscapes, vegetation and species, and agriculture, by causing longer dry seasons, more frequent extreme storms, fewer chilling hours, and higher snowlines.

Information available to inform land and resource managers is generally composed of model projections of precipitation and air temperature trends with coarse spatial detail. A recently developed tool, the Basin Characterization Model (BCM), can translate fine-scale maps of climate trends and projections into the hydrologic consequences, to permit evaluation of the impacts to water availability at regional, watershed, and landscape scales, as caused by changes in temperature and precipitation.

The Basin Characterization Model (Flint and others, 2013) was used to calculate a monthly water balance for the California hydrologic region (Figure 1), which includes all basins draining into the state. The model was developed at a 270-m spatial resolution, using monthly data, and has been supported by numerous federal, state, and local agencies, and international organizations. The BCM uses historical climate data from 1896-2010, and an ensemble of 18 future climate projections that were used to develop hydrologic output such as snowpack, recharge, runoff, and climatic water deficit. To produce this dataset, digital maps of soils and geology for the California hydrologic region were integrated with monthly maps of climate and hydrology, to generate average water year and 30-year water year maps for the historical record (1951-1980 and 1981-2010) and future projections (2010-2039, 2040-2069, and 2070-2099). This report describes the resulting downscaled climate and hydrologic output for the historical and future dataset produced by the California BCM. Details of the development methodology, calibration, uncertainty, and application to the California hydrologic region can be found in Flint and others (2013). Analyses of some of the future conditions can be found in Flint and Flint (2012), Thorne and others (2012), and Thorne and others (2013).

Figure 1. Map showing change in snow water equivalent between 1951-1980 and 1981-2010 in California

Figure 1. Maps of hydrologic output variables for (a) average recharge (net infiltration below the root zone) for water years 1981-2010 and (b) change in average April 1st snow water equivalent (SWE) between 1951-1980 and 1981-2010 calculated by the Basin Characterization Model for the California hydrologic region.

Development of a Monthly Dataset of Historical (1896-2010) and 18 Projected Futures (2011-2099) for Climate and Hydrology for the California Hydrologic Region

Figure 2. Schematic describing relation of components of the Basin Characterization Model (from Thorne and others, 2012).

Figure 2. Schematic describing relation of components of the Basin Characterization Model (from Thorne and others, 2012).

The Basin Characterization Model (BCM) is a simple grid-based model that calculates the water balance (Figure 2) for any time step or spatial scale by using climate inputs, precipitation, minimum and maximum air temperature. Potential evapotranspiration is calculated from solar radiation with topographic shading and cloudiness, snow is accumulated, sublimated, and melted (sublimation, snowfall, snowpack, snowmelt), and excess water moves through the soil profile, changing the soil water storage. Changes in soil water are used to calculate actual evapotranspiration, and when subtracted from potential evapotranspiration calculates climatic water deficit. Depending on soil properties and the permeability of underlying bedrock, water may become recharge or runoff. Routing is done via post-processing to estimate baseflow, streamflow, and groundwater recharge (see Flint and others, 2013). Monthly downscaled climate inputs and hydrologic output variables (Table 1) can be examined for any size polygon representing regions or watersheds, or the distribution across the landscape.

A selection of future climate projections includes an ensemble of models from the World Climate Research Programme's (WCRP's) Coupled Model Intercomparison Project phase 3 (CMIP3) multi-model dataset (Meehl and others, 2007) and the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project phase 5 (CMIP5) (Taylor and Stouffer, 2012). These two datasets represent models from both IPCC 4th (IPCC, 2007) and 5th (scheduled for publication late 2013) assessment reports and provide a range of projected climatic conditions, from warm and wet to hot and dry (Weiss and others, in review). The models and descriptions are included in Table 2.

Input data used to produce the BCM outputs, and included as available data are gridded monthly climate data from PRISM (Daly and others, 2008), geology (Jennings 1977), and water content at field capacity and wilting point, porosity, and depth from SSURGO soil databases (NRCS 2006). Also included in the dataset are annual values for precipitation, minimum and maximum air temperature, potential evapotranspiration, actual evapotranspiration, climatic water deficit, runoff and recharge calculated for western water years (October 1 to September 30), and April 1st snowpack. Statistics calculated on 30-year periods (1951-1980 and 1981-2010) and futures (2010-2039, 2040-2069, and 2070-2099) include mean, detrended standard deviation, standard deviation, coefficient of variation, mean winter air temperature (December, January, February; DJF) and mean summer air temperature (June, July, August; JJA). For model application, all climate data was spatially downscaled from the original spatial resolution (historical PRISM at 800-m) or future climate projections (12-km) according to a methodology described in Flint and Flint (2012). Figure 2. Schematic describing relation of components of the Basin Characterization Model (from Thorne and others, 2012).

Table 1. Input climate and output hydrology variables for the Basin Characterization Model, with codes used in filenames, and description of calculations (from Thorne and others, 2012). [C, celsius; mm, millimeter; BCM, Basin Characterization Model;

Table 1. Schematic describing relation of components of the Basin Characterization Model (from Thorne and others, 2012).

Table 2. Models used in the California Basin Characterization Model calculation of hydrologic response to future climate projections.

Table 2. Schematic describing relation of components of the Basin Characterization Model (from Thorne and others, 2012).

Climate and Hydrology Results for Historical (1900-2010) and 18 Projected Futures (2011-2099) for the California Region

The 18 climate change projections span a range of potential future climate, with all air temperature projections higher by the end of the 21st century, and variable changes in precipitation (Figure 3).

Climate and hydrologic data for these projections at 270-m is available via web-based download for the California hydrologic region or selected subsets. Thirty-year mean values are available from California Climate Commons, and monthly data is available from the USGS Geo Data Portal.

Figure 3. Projected change in precipitation and minimum air temperature for 30-year water year means between 1951-1980 and 2070-2099 for18 future climate projections

Figure 3. Projected change in precipitation and minimum air temperature for 30-year water year means between 1951-1980 and 2070-2099 for 18 future climate projections. Bars indicate the range of values for all cells in the California hydrologic region and boxes indicate general direction of precipitation and temperature change in comparison to the ensemble mean.

References

Daly, C., Halbleib, M., Smith, J.I., Gibson, W.P., Doggett, M.K., Taylor, G.H., Curtis, B.J., Pasteris, P.P., 2008, Physiographically sensitive mapping of climatological temperature and precipitation across the conterminous United States: Int J Climatol 28:2031-2064.

Flint, L.E., Flint, A.L., 2012, Downscaling future climate scenarios to fine scales for hydrologic and ecological modeling and analysis: Ecological Processes 2012 1:1. doi:10.1186/2192-1709-1-2

Flint, L.E., Flint, A.L., Thorne, J.H., and Boynton, R., 2013, Fine-scale hydrologic modeling for regional landscape applications: the California Basin Characterization Model development and performance: Ecol. Processes 2:25.

Hidalgo, H.G., Dettinger, M.D., Cayan, D.R., 2008, Downscaling with constructed analogues: daily precipitation and temperature fields over the United States: Calif Energy Comm PIER Energy-Related Environ Res. CEC-500-2007-123.

IPCC, 2007, IPCC Fourth Assessment Report: Climate change 2007; synthesis report. Core writing team, Pachauri, R. K. and Reisinger A. (Eds). International Panel on Climate Change, Geneva Switzerland.

Jennings, C.W., 1977, Geologic map of California. California Division of Mines and Geology geologic data: Map number 2, scale 1:750,000.

Meehl, G.A., Covey, C., Delworth, T., Latif, M., McAvaney, B., Mitchell, J.F.B., Stouffer, R.J., and Taylor, K.E., 2007, The WCRP CMIP3 multi-model dataset: A new era in climate change research: Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, 88, 1383-1394.

NRCS (Natural Resources Conservation Service), 2006, U.S. General Soil Map (SSURGO/STATSGO2): Data, Description

Taylor, K.E., R.J. Stouffer, G.A. Meehl: An Overview of CMIP5 and the experiment design. Bull. Amer. Meteor. Soc., 93, 485-498, doi:10.1175/BAMS-D-11-00094.1

Thorne, J.H., Boynton, R., Flint, L.E., Flint, A.L., Le, T.N., 2012, Development and application of downscaled hydroclimatic predictor variables for use in climate vulnerability and assessment studies: CEC-500-2012-010. California Energy Commission, Sacramento.

Wood, A.W., Leung, L.R., Sridhar, V., and Lettenmaier, D.P., 2004, Hydrologic implications of dynamical and statistical approaches to downscaling climate model outputs: Climatic Change, 62, 189-216.

Publications

Basin Characterization Model Development

Flint, L.E. and Flint, A.L., 2014, California Basin Characterization Model: A Dataset of Historical and Future Hydrologic Response to Climate Change, U.S. Geological Survey Data Release, doi:10.5066/F76T0JPB

Flint, L.E., Flint, A.L., and Thorne, J.H., 2014, Evaluating Climate Change Using the Basin Characterization Model: USGS Fact Sheet 2014-3098

Flint, L.E., Flint, A.L., Thorne, J.H., and Boynton, R., 2013, Fine-scale hydrological modeling for climate change applications; using watershed calibrations to assess model performance for landscape projections; Ecological Processes 2:25

Thorne, J.H., Boynton, R., Flint, L.E., Flint, A.L., and Le, T-N., 2012, Development and application of downscaled hydroclimatic predictor variables for use in climate vulnerability and assessment studies. California Energy Commission. Publication number: CEC-500-2012-010.

Flint, L.E., Flint, A.L., 2012, Downscaling future climate scenarios to fine scales for hydrologic and ecological modeling and analysis: Ecological Processes 2012 1:1. doi:10.1186/2192-1709-1-2

Flint, L.E., and Flint, A.L., 2012, Estimation of Stream Temperature in Support of Fish Production Modeling under Future Climates in the Klamath River Basin: USGS Scientific Investigations Report 2011-5171, vi, 31 p.

Flint, L.E., and Flint, A.L., 2008, Regional analysis of ground-water recharge, in Stonestrom, D.A., Constantz, J., Ferré, T.P.A., and Leake, S.A., eds., Ground-water recharge in the arid and semiarid southwestern United States: U.S. Geological Survey Professional Paper 1703, p. 29-59.

Flint, A.L., and Flint, L.E., 2008, Integration of regional hydrologic modeling using FORTRAN and ArcGIS, Water Resources IMPACT 10(1) p. 31-35.

Flint, A.L., Flint, L.E., Hevesi, J.A., and Blainey, J.M., 2004, Fundamental concepts of recharge in the Desert Southwest: a regional modeling perspective, in Groundwater Recharge in a Desert Environment: The Southwestern United States, edited by J.F. Hogan, F.M. Phillips, and B.R. Scanlon, Water Science and Applications Series, vol. 9, AGU, Washington, D.C., 159-184.

Flint, A.L., 2004, Recharge mapping at Yucca Mountain, Nevada — the scale effect; Box 4-2 in Groundwater Fluxes Across Interfaces, National Research Council, National Academies Press, Washington, D.C., p. 50-51.

Hevesi, J.A., Flint, A.L., and Flint, L.E., 2003, Simulation of net infiltration and potential recharge using the distributed-parameter watershed model, INFILv3, of the Death Valley Regional Flow System, Nevada and California: U.S. Geological Survey Water Resources Investigation Report 03-4090.

Basin Characterization Model Applications

Watershed Modeling and Climate Change Threats

Esralew, R., Flint, L.E., Thorne, J.H., Boynton, R., and Flint, A.L., 2015, A framework for effective use of hydroclimate models in climate-change adaptation planning for managed habitats with limited hydrologic response data, Environmental Management DOI 10.1007/s00267-015-0569-y

Byrd, K.B., Flint, L.E., Alvarez, P., Casey, C.F., Sleeter, B.M., Soulard, C.E., Flint, A.L., Sohl, T.L., (2015), Integrated climate and land use change scenarios for California rangeland ecosystem services: wildlife habitat, soil carbon, and water supply. Landscape Ecology, 30(4): 729-750. 10.1007/s10980-015-0159-7

Thorne, J.H., Flint, L.E., Flint, A.L., Boynton, R., 2015, The magnitude and spatial patterns of historical and future hydrologic change in California's watersheds. Ecosphere 6(2):24. http://dx.doi.org/10.1890/ES14-00300.1

Kershner, J.M., editor. 2014. A Climate Change Vulnerability Assessment for Focal Resources of the Sierra Nevada. Version 1.0. EcoAdapt, Bainbridge Island, WA.

Flint, L.E., and Flint, A.L., 2012, Simulation of climate change in San Francisco Bay Basins, California: Case studies in the Russian River Valley and Santa Cruz Mountains: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2012-5132, 55 p.

Micheli, L., Flint, L.E., Flint, A.L., Weiss, S.B., and Kennedy, M., 2012, Downscaling future climate scenarios to the watersed scale: a North San Francisco Bay Estuary case study, San Francisco Estuary and Watershed Science, 10(4).

Flint, L.E., Flint, A.L., Curtis, J.A., and Buesch, D.C., 2011, A Preliminary Water Balance Model for the Tigris and Euphrates River System: USGS Open-File Report.

Recharge Modeling

Faunt, C.C., Stamos, C.L., Flint, L.E., Wright, M.T., Burgess, M.K., Sneed, Michelle, Brandt, Justin, Martin, Peter, and Coes, A.L., 2015, Hydrogeology, hydrologic effects of development, and simulation of groundwater flow in the Borrego Valley, San Diego County, California: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2015b 5150, 135 p., http://dx.doi.org/10.3133/sir20155150.

Siade, A.J., Nishikawa, R., Martin, P. 2015, Natural recharge estimation and uncertainty analysis of an adjudicated groundwater basin using a regional-scale flow and subsidence model (Antelope Valley, California, USA), Hydrogeology Journal (23) 1267-1291.

Phillips, S.P., Rewis, D.L., and Traum, J.A., 2015, Hydrologic model of the Modesto Region, California, 1960-2004, U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2015-5045.

Hanson, R.T., Flint, L.E., Faunt, C.C., Gibbs, D.R., and Schmid W., 2014, Hydrologic models and analysis of water availability in Cuyama Valley, California, U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2014-5150.

Hanson, R.T., Schmid, W., Faunt, C.C., Lear, J., and Lockwood, B. 2014, Integrated hydrologic model of Pajaro Valley, Santa Cruz, and Monterey Counties, California, U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2014-5111.

Drexler, J.Z., Knifong, D., Tuil, J, Flint, L.E., and Flint, A.L., 2013, Fens as whole-ecosystem gauges of groundwater recharge under climate change. J. Hydrol. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jhydrol.2012.11.056

Flint, L.E., Flint, A.L., Stolp, B.J., and Danskin, W.R., 2012, A basin-scale approach for assessing water resources in a semiarid environment: San Diego region, California and Mexico, Hydrology and Earth System Sciences, 16, 1-17.

Hanson, R.T., Flint, L.E., Flint, A.L., Dettinger, M.D., Faunt, C.C., Cayan, D., and Schmid, W., 2012, A method for physically based model analysis of conjunctive use in response to potential climate changes, Water Resources Research, vol. 48, W00L08,

Flint, A.L. and Flint, L.E., 2012, Recharge, in Martin, P., and Flint, L.E., (eds), Geohydrology of Big Bear Valley, California: Phase 1—Geologic Framework, Recharge, and Preliminary Assessment of the Source and Age of Groundwater, USGS Scientific Investigations Report 2012-5100, 112p.

Flint, A.L., Flint, L.E., and Masbruch, M.D., 2011, Appendix 3: Input, Calibration, Uncertainty, and limitation of the basin characterization model, in Conceptual model of the Great Basin Carbonate and alluvial aquifer system, U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigation Report 2010-5193, 20 p.

Flint, A.L., and Flint, L.E., 2007, Application of the basin characterization model to estimate in-place recharge and runoff potential in the Basin and Range carbonate-rock aquifer system, White Pine County, Nevada, and adjacent areas in Nevada and Utah: USGS Scientific Investigations Report 2007-5099, 20 p.

Heilweil, V.M., Brooks, L.E., editors, 2010, Conceptual model of the Great Basin carbonate and alluvial aquifer system, U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2010-5193, 191 p.

Laczniak, R.J., Flint, A.L., Moreo, M.T., Knochenmus, L.A., Lundmark, K.W., Pohll, G., Carroll, R.W.H., Smith, J.L., Welborn, T.L., Heilweil, V.M., Pavelko, M.T., Hershey, R.L., Thomas, J.M., Earman, S., and Lyles, B.F., 2007, Ground-water budgets in Welch, A.H., Bright, D.J., and Knochenmus, L.A. eds., 2007, Water resources of the Basin and Range carbonate-rock aquifer system, White Pine County, Nevada, and adjacent areas in Nevada and Utah—A Report to Congress: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2007-5261, p. 43-82.

Blasch, K., Hoffmann, J.P., Bryson, J., Graser, L., Leon, E., and Flint, A., 2006, Hydrogeology of the upper and middle Verde River watersheds, central Arizona: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2005-5198.

Wildfire and Forest Health

Mann, M.L., Batllori, E., Moritz, M.A., Waller, E.K., Berck, P., Flint, A.L., Flint, L.E., and Dolfi, E., 2016, Incorporating anthropogenic influences into fire probability models: effects of human activity and climate change on fire activity in California, PLoS ONE 11(4): e0153589. Doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0153589

Millar C.I., Westfall, R.D., Delany, D.L., Flint, A.L.,, and Flint, L.E., 2015, Recruitment patterns and growth of high-elevation pines in response to climatic variability (1883-2013), western Great Basin, USA. Canadian J Forest Res, DOI: 10.1139/cjfr-2015-0025

Anderegg, W.R., Flint, A.L., Huang, C-Y., Flint, L.E., Berry, J.A., Davis, F., Field, C.B., 2015, Tree mortality predicted from drought-induced vascular damage. Nature Geoscience, 8(5), 367-371., DOI: 10.1038/ngeo2400.

Millar C.I., Westfall, R.D., Delany, D.L., Flint, A.L.,, and Flint, L.E., 2015, Recruitment patterns and growth of high-elevation pines in response to climatic variability (1883-2013), western Great Basin, USA. Proceedings of PACLIM 2015.

McIntyre, P.J., Thorne, J.H., Dolanc, C.R., Flint, A.L., Flint, L.E., Kelly, M., and Ackerly, D.D., 2015, 20th century shifts in forest structure in California: denser forests, smaller trees, and increased dominance of oaks, Proc. Nat. Acad. Sciences, doi/10.1073/pnas.1410186112.

van Mantgem, P.J., Nesmith, J.C.B., Keifer, M.B., Knapp, E.E., Flint, A.L., and Flint, L.E., 2013, Climatic stress increases forest fire severity across the western United States, Ecology Letters (doi:10.1 111/ele. 12151)

Das, A., Stephenson, N., Das, T., van Mantgem, P., and Flint, A.L., 2013 Forecasting climate-related tree mortality in energy- versus water- limited forests, PLoS ONE 8(7): e69917. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0069917

Millar, C.I., Westfall, R.D., Delany, D.L., Bokach, M.J., Flint, A.L., Flint L.E., 2012, Forest mortality in high-elevation whitebark pine (Pinus albicaulis) forests of eastern California, USA: influence of environmental context, bark beetles, climatic water deficit, and warming. Can. J. For. Res. 42: 749b


Citation:  Flint, L.E. and Flint, A.L., 2014, California Basin Characterization Model: A Dataset of Historical and Future Hydrologic Response to Climate Change, U.S. Geological Survey Data Release, doi:10.5066/F76T0JPB

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