ESRL Integrating Research and Technology Themes

Climate and Water Systems

  1. Goal and Scope
  2. The primary goal is to coordinate and blend together basic research on climate and regional water systems with applied research on how such information can be used in adaptive management strategies.

    Specific research foci are:

    • Provide a physical understanding and attribution for climate variations and change. Timely attribution of the causes for climate anomalies, extreme events, and change is essential for improved predictions including improved representation of forcing agents, and accurate assessments of uncertainties in projections of change.
    • Integrate measurements of variations and change in water vapor, clouds, radiation, snow, ice, soil moisture, precipitation, temperature, and atmospheric circulation to clarify the vulnerability of hydrology, river, and reservoir systems.
    • Determine the chemical and physical conditions of the Earth's System conducive for abrupt change, particularly those changes of importance for the security of water systems.
    • Determine the two-way feedback between the climate and water systems.
    • Evaluate how new climate information can be integrated with non-climate information so as to be best suited for adaptive management.
    • Improve the access and communication of climate information related to water decisions.

  3. Rationale and Payoffs
  4. This integrating theme will advance understanding on the role of climate in the hydrologic cycle, with a focus on identifying at-risk water systems due to a variable and changing climate. Increasingly, communities across the U.S. must deal with either too much or too little freshwater. America's water resource managers require dramatically more predictive information than the current services can provide. While some of the scientific breakthroughs required to produce this type of information have occurred, additional multidisciplinary research is essential to further progress. Scientists at the Earth System Research Laboratory (ESRL) have played lead roles in research in NOAA to understand the sensitivity of climate to natural and anthropogenic forcing, to monitor changes in all three water phases: vapor (atmospheric trace gas), liquid (precipitation, storage, river flow), and frozen (montane snow pack) states, and to evaluate the use and usefulness of climate information to reduce costs and mitigate impacts of extreme hydrologic events such as droughts and floods. The proposed activity will leverage ESRL expertise in satellites, radar data, weather observation networks, atmospheric models, climate predictions, and integrating science information into decision support tools. Enhanced coordination of these efforts will provide a unique opportunity to advance NOAA's emerging climate services to meet societal needs for water system decision support.

  5. Major Collaborators and Their Research Foci
    1. Earth System Research Laboratory
      • Physical Sciences Division: Perform analysis and diagnosis of climate variability and change, perform and diagnose climate model simulations to understand sensitivity and provide attribution of observed climate states, research on water resource management, monitoring of water vapor, precipitation, streamflow, reservoirs, and snow pack.
      • Global Systems Division: Development of global to local modeling systems for weather-climate diagnostics of the water cycle.
    2. Other NOAA
      • Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Lab: Global climate modeling of coupled ocean-atmosphere systems, and their response to known and projected changes in atmospheric composition.
      • Office of Global Programs: Individual PI driven projects.
      • NCEP: Global climate modeling for assessing the ocean and land surface roles in climate variability, the Climate Test Bed activity for improving predictions of seasonal climate.
      • NESDIS: Provide NPOESS data records on precipitation (type and rate), soil moisture, vegetation conditions, and snowpack.
      • NOS and NMFS: Modeling studies linking to estuaries and coastal-area impacts.
    3. Others
      • CIRES: The Regional Integrated Science and Assessment activity will lead efforts to identify and characterize regional western U.S. water system's vulnerability to climate variability and change.
      • NASA-GMAO: Coordinated climate model experiments to understand the causes of drought, and rapid climate change and transitions.
      • NCAR: Hierarchy of climate simulations for attribution of known climate variations and change.
  6. Contributions to NOAA Goals
    • Strategic Plan Performance: Serve Society's Needs for Weather, Climate and Water Information.
    • NOAA Service requirements (PM): Improve skill for U.S. seasonal temperature and precipitation forecasts Reduce uncertainty in measurement of temperature and precipitation trends over the contiguous U.S. Improve predictability of the onset, duration, and impact of hazardous and severe weather and water events.
    • Links closely with Office of Hydrologic Development (OHD) capabilities to 1) Produce Water Resources Forecasts and Information, 2) Support Water Resources Forecasts and Information, and 3) Enhance Water Resources Forecasts and Information, as well as core activities Office of Climate, Water, and Weather Services' Hydrologic Services Division.
  7. Major Information Products, Customers, and Linkages
  8. Responds to fundamental science issue of the role of water and the water cycle in global and regional climate variability and change. Strong connections to regional decision support, as well as to responding to needs for a National Integrated Drought Information System (NIDIS) early warning capability. Accelerate the transition from research findings to products and services that provide useful information for regional fire, agriculture, and water resource management. Expanded and more effective NOAA climate and water products will provide improved scientific information to better serve the needs of the public and decision makers in proactive planning, impact mitigation and responses. This activity also contributes to a more rapid development and efficient transfer of research advances into NOAA operational products.