Water Availability Grand Challenge for North America

May 3 - 5, 2016 | Columbia, MD, USA

North American Regional Climate Effort – the U.S. Regional Hydroclimate Project (USRHP)

Organizing Committee: Peter van Oevelen (International GEWEX Project Office), Roy Rasmussen (UCAR), Ana Barros (Duke University), Graeme Stephens (JPL), Margaret Srinivasan (JPL), Craig Ferguson (University at Albany, SUNY), and Benjamin Zaitchik (Johns Hopkins University)

Local Organizing Committee: Peter van Oevelen (International GEWEX Project Office), Bob Schiffer (GESTAR/USRA), and Bill Corso (GESTAR/USRA)

Water availability constitutes a key challenges in the context of climate change. It is linked with alterations in various components of the water cycle, including precipitation, soil moisture, evapotranspiration, and runoff, and can be associated with large impacts on human society through changes in droughts, floods, and long-term water resources.

There is a great scientific need and desire by the hydrological, biogeophysical, and Earth science communities (including ecosystems hydrology, land use change, and impacts on other natural systems) to develop a robust effort within North America that addresses the water challenges facing the central western North American continent (including regions of the U.S. and Canada), which is particularly affected by the climate-related water changes, in the coming decade.

We propose having High Resolution Modeling (HRM) activities conducted in the continental U.S. (CONUS), along with regions of central western Canada, function as the glue between the various science research focus areas mentioned below. In addition, we envision an open and accessible community data policy with regards to sharing observational data, model output, etc. This is the best way forward for a successful endeavor and, in particular, for entraining and supporting early career researchers (ECRs).


The overarching goal of the USRHP is to determine how fresh water availability will change over the coming decade and to understand the impact of these changes on society.

Four main research questions that can guide the USRHP are:

  1. Which characteristics of precipitation affect water availability, and how are they changing?
  2. What are the roles of land surface processes and human water use in affecting water availability?
  3. How can new observational data streams be developed to detect and attribute changes in water availability, and constrain climate change projections? What new observations and observational strategies are needed?
  4. How predictable are the key drivers of water availability on subseasonal to decadal time scales in CONUS? What are the scales of useful predictability for different types of water availability and processes?


We envision the following foci under this umbrella:

  1. High–resolution coupled climate modeling
  2. Evaluation of Climate Projections & Assessments of Climate Impacts
  3. Mountain (Terrain) Hydrology
  4. Observations for process-level understanding and model evaluation and refinement
  5. Ecosystem Science
  6. Water-Energy-People Nexus
  7. Socio Economic Aspects
  8. Policy Implications – governance and legislative issues, particularly on implementation and application of the science.

MECHANISMS (for achieving USRHP goals):

  1. Development a web-based platform–any field campaign component should precede the core modeling activity:
    1. Distribution of a common set of boundary forcing over agreed-upon target domains and time periods;
    2. Collection and Distribution of associated participant outputs; and
    3. Distribution of associated verification data and benchmark tests (e.g., GLASS-PALS).
  2. Pilot studies
  3. Workshops, seminars
  4. Inventory and survey of existing observing systems that meet requirements or can be leveraged to do so.


Background image by Rick Schwartz used under Creative Commons license.