Necsoiu, M., C.L. Dinwiddie, G.R. Walter, A. Larsen, and S.A. Stothoff, 2013: “Multi-temporal image analysis of historical aerial photographs and recent satellite imagery reveals evolution of water body surface area and polygonal terrain morphology in Kobuk Valley National Park, Alaska.” Environmental Research Letters, v. 8, paper no. 025007, doi: 10.1088/1748-9326/8/2/025007.
Multi-temporal image analysis of very-high-resolution historical aerial and recent satellite imagery of the Ahnewetut Wetlands in Kobuk Valley National Park, Alaska, revealed the nature of thaw lake and polygonal terrain evolution over a 54-year period of record comprising two 27-year intervals (1951–1978, 1978–2005). Using active-contouring-based change detection, high-precision orthorectification and co-registration and the normalized difference index, surface area expansion and contraction of 22 shallow water bodies, ranging in size from 0.09 to 179 ha, and the transition of ice-wedge polygons from a low- to a high-centered morphology were quantified. Total surface area decreased by only 0.4% during the first time interval, but decreased by 5.5% during the second time interval. Twelve water bodies (ten lakes and two ponds) were relatively stable with net surface area decreases of ≤10%, including four lakes that gained area during both time intervals, whereas ten water bodies (five lakes and five ponds) had surface area losses in excess of 10%, including two ponds that drained completely. Polygonal terrain remained relatively stable during the first time interval, but transformation of polygons from low- to high-centered was significant during the second time interval.
Stewart, R.J., W.M. Wollheim, A. Miara, C.J. Vörösmarty, B. Fekete, R.B. Lammers, and B. Rosenzweig, 2013: “Horizontal cooling towers: riverine ecosystem services and the fate of thermoelectric heat in the contemporary Northeast US.” Environmental Research Letters, v. 8, paper no. 025010, doi: 10.1088/1748-9326/8/2/025010.
The electricity sector is dependent on rivers to provide ecosystem services that help regulate excess heat, either through provision of water for evaporative cooling or by conveying, diluting and attenuating waste heat inputs. Reliance on these ecosystem services alters flow and temperature regimes, which impact fish habitat and other aquatic ecosystem services. We demonstrate the contemporary (2000–2010) dependence of the electricity sector on riverine ecosystem services and associated aquatic impacts in the Northeast US, a region with a high density of thermoelectric power plants. We quantify these dynamics using a spatially distributed hydrology and water temperature model (the framework for aquatic modeling in the Earth system), coupled with the thermoelectric power and thermal pollution model. We find that 28.4% of thermoelectric heat production is transferred to rivers, whereas 25.9% is directed to vertical cooling towers. Regionally, only 11.3% of heat transferred to rivers is dissipated to the atmosphere and the rest is delivered to coasts, in part due to the distribution of power plants within the river system. Impacts to the flow regime are minimal, while impacts to the thermal regime include increased river lengths of unsuitable habitats for fish with maximum thermal tolerances of 24.0, 29.0, and 34.0 ° C in segments downstream of plants by 0.6%, 9.8%, and 53.9%, respectively. Our analysis highlights the interactions among electricity production, cooling technologies, aquatic impacts, and ecosystem services, and can be used to assess the full costs and tradeoffs of electricity production at regional scales.
A video abstract is also available at the link above.
Meldrum, J., S. Nettles-Anderson, G. Heath, and J. Macknick, 2013: “Life cycle water use for electricity generation: a review and harmonization of literature estimates.” Environmental Research Letters, v. 8, paper no. 015031, doi: 10.1088/1748-9326/8/1/015031.
This article provides consolidated estimates of water withdrawal and water consumption for the full life cycle of selected electricity generating technologies, which includes component manufacturing, fuel acquisition, processing, and transport, and power plant operation and decommissioning. Estimates were gathered through a broad search of publicly available sources, screened for quality and relevance, and harmonized for methodological differences. Published estimates vary substantially, due in part to differences in production pathways, in defined boundaries, and in performance parameters. Despite limitations to available data, we find that: water used for cooling of thermoelectric power plants dominates the life cycle water use in most cases; the coal, natural gas, and nuclear fuel cycles require substantial water per megawatt-hour in most cases; and, a substantial proportion of life cycle water use per megawatt-hour is required for the manufacturing and construction of concentrating solar, geothermal, photovoltaic, and wind power facilities. On the basis of the best available evidence for the evaluated technologies, total life cycle water use appears lowest for electricity generated by photovoltaics and wind, and highest for thermoelectric generation technologies. This report provides the foundation for conducting water use impact assessments of the power sector while also identifying gaps in data that could guide future research.
Hagemann, S., C. Chen, D.B. Clark, S. Folwell, S.N. Gosling, I. Haddeland, N. Hanasaki, J. Heinke, F. Ludwig, F. Voss, and A.J. Wiltshire, 2013: “Climate change impact on available water resources obtained using multiple global climate and hydrology models.” Earth System Dynamics, v. 4, pp. 129-144, doi: 10.5194/esd-4-129-2013.
Climate change is expected to alter the hydrological cycle resulting in large-scale impacts on water availability. However, future climate change impact assessments are highly uncertain. For the first time, multiple global climate (three) and hydrological models (eight) were used to systematically assess the hydrological response to climate change and project the future state of global water resources. This multi-model ensemble allows us to investigate how the hydrology models contribute to the uncertainty in projected hydrological changes compared to the climate models. Due to their systematic biases, GCM outputs cannot be used directly in hydrological impact studies, so a statistical bias correction has been applied. The results show a large spread in projected changes in water resources within the climate–hydrology modelling chain for some regions. They clearly demonstrate that climate models are not the only source of uncertainty for hydrological change, and that the spread resulting from the choice of the hydrology model is larger than the spread originating from the climate models over many areas. But there are also areas showing a robust change signal, such as at high latitudes and in some midlatitude regions, where the models agree on the sign of projected hydrological changes, indicative of higher confidence in this ensemble mean signal. In many catchments an increase of available water resources is expected but there are some severe decreases in Central and Southern Europe, the Middle East, the Mississippi River basin, southern Africa, southern China and south-eastern Australia.
Mueller, M. H., R. Weingartner, and C. Alewell, 2013: “Importance of vegetation, topography and flow paths for water transit times of base flow in alpine headwater catchments.” Hydrology and Earth System Sciences, v. 17, pp. 1661-1679, doi: 10.5194/hess-17-1661-2013.
The mean transit time (MTT) of water in a catchment gives information about storage, flow paths, sources of water and thus also about retention and release of solutes in a catchment. To our knowledge there are only a few catchment studies on the influence of vegetation cover changes on base flow MTTs. The main changes in vegetation cover in the Swiss Alps are massive shrub encroachment and forest expansion into formerly open habitats. Four small and relatively steep headwater catchments in the Swiss Alps (Ursern Valley) were investigated to relate different vegetation cover to water transit times.
Time series of water stable isotopes were used to calculate MTTs. The high temporal variation of the stable isotope signals in precipitation was strongly dampened in stream base flow samples. MTTs of the four catchments were 70 to 102 weeks. The strong dampening of the stable isotope input signal as well as stream water geochemistry points to deeper flow paths and mixing of waters of different ages at the catchments’ outlets. MTTs were neither related to topographic indices nor vegetation cover. The major part of the quickly infiltrating precipitation likely percolates through fractured and partially karstified deeper rock zones, which increases the control of bedrock flow paths on MTT. Snow accumulation and the timing of its melt play an important role for stable isotope dynamics during spring and early summer.
We conclude that, in mountainous headwater catchments with relatively shallow soil layers, the hydrogeological and geochemical patterns (i.e. geochemistry, porosity and hydraulic conductivity of rocks) and snow dynamics influence storage, mixing and release of water in a stronger way than vegetation cover or topography do.
Fang, X., J.W. Pomeroy, C.R. Ellis, M.K. MacDonald, C.M. DeBeer, and T. Brown, 2013: “Multi-variable evaluation of hydrological model predictions for a headwater basin in the Canadian Rocky Mountains.” Hydrology and Earth System Sciences, v. 17, pp. 1635-1659, doi: 10.5194/hess-17-1635-2013.
One of the purposes of the Cold Regions Hydrological Modelling platform (CRHM) is to diagnose inadequacies in the understanding of the hydrological cycle and its simulation. A physically based hydrological model including a full suite of snow and cold regions hydrology processes as well as warm season, hillslope and groundwater hydrology was developed in CRHM for application in the Marmot Creek Research Basin (~9.4 km2), located in the Front Ranges of the Canadian Rocky Mountains. Parameters were selected from digital elevation model, forest, soil, and geological maps, and from the results of many cold regions hydrology studies in the region and elsewhere. Non-calibrated simulations were conducted for six hydrological years during the period 2005–2011 and were compared with detailed field observations of several hydrological cycle components. The results showed good model performance for snow accumulation and snowmelt compared to the field observations for four seasons during the period 2007–2011, with a small bias and normalised root mean square difference (NRMSD) ranging from 40 to 42% for the subalpine conifer forests and from 31 to 67% for the alpine tundra and treeline larch forest environments. Overestimation or underestimation of the peak SWE ranged from 1.6 to 29%. Simulations matched well with the observed unfrozen moisture fluctuation in the top soil layer at a lodgepole pine site during the period 2006–2011, with a NRMSD ranging from 17 to 39%, but with consistent overestimation of 7 to 34%. Evaluations of seasonal streamflow during the period 2006–2011 revealed that the model generally predicted well compared to observations at the basin scale, with a NRMSD of 60% and small model bias (1%), while at the sub-basin scale NRMSDs were larger, ranging from 72 to 76%, though overestimation or underestimation for the cumulative seasonal discharge was within 29%. Timing of discharge was better predicted at the Marmot Creek basin outlet, having a Nash–Sutcliffe efficiency (NSE) of 0.58 compared to the outlets of the sub-basins where NSE ranged from 0.2 to 0.28. The Pearson product-moment correlation coefficient of 0.15 and 0.17 for comparisons between the simulated groundwater storage and observed groundwater level fluctuation at two wells indicate weak but positive correlations. The model results are encouraging for uncalibrated prediction and indicate research priorities to improve simulations of snow accumulation at treeline, groundwater dynamics, and small-scale runoff generation processes in this environment. The study shows that improved hydrological cycle model prediction can be derived from improved hydrological understanding and therefore is a model that can be applied for prediction in ungauged basins.
Boike, J., B. Kattenstroth, K. Abramova, N. Bornemann, A. Chetverova, T. Fedorova, K. Fröb, M. Grigoriev, M. Grüber, L. Kutzbach, M. Langer, M. Minke, S. Muster, K. Piel, E.-M. Pfeiffer, G. Stoof, S. Westermann, K. Wischnewski, C. Wille, and H.-W. Hubberten, 2013: “Baseline characteristics of climate, permafrost and land cover from a new permafrost observatory in the Lena River Delta, Siberia (1998–2011).” Biogeosciences, v. 10, pp. 2105-2128, doi: 10.5194/bg-10-2105-2013.
Samoylov Island is centrally located within the Lena River Delta at 72° N, 126° E and lies within the Siberian zone of continuous permafrost. The landscape on Samoylov Island consists mainly of late Holocene river terraces with polygonal tundra, ponds and lakes, and an active floodplain. The island has been the focus of numerous multidisciplinary studies since 1993, which have focused on climate, land cover, ecology, hydrology, permafrost and limnology. This paper aims to provide a framework for future studies by describing the characteristics of the island’s meteorological parameters (temperature, radiation and snow cover), soil temperature, and soil moisture. The land surface characteristics have been described using high resolution aerial images in combination with data from ground-based observations. Of note is that deeper permafrost temperatures have increased between 0.3 to 1.3 °C over the last five years. However, no clear warming of air and active layer temperatures is detected since 1998, though winter air temperatures during recent years have not been as cold as in earlier years.
Wang, B., J. Liu, H.-J. Kim, P.J. Webster, S.-Y. Yim, and B. Xiang, 2013: “Northern Hemisphere summer monsoon intensified by mega-El Niño/southern oscillation and Atlantic multidecadal oscillation.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, v. 110, pp. 5347-5352, 10.1073/pnas.1219405110.
Prediction of monsoon changes in the coming decades is important for infrastructure planning and sustainable economic development. The decadal prediction involves both natural decadal variability and anthropogenic forcing. Hitherto, the causes of the decadal variability of Northern Hemisphere summer monsoon (NHSM) are largely unknown because the monsoons over Asia, West Africa, and North America have been studied primarily on a regional basis, which is unable to identify coherent decadal changes and the overriding controls on planetary scales. Here, we show that, during the recent global warming of about 0.4 °C since the late 1970s, a coherent decadal change of precipitation and circulation emerges in the entirety of the NHSM system. Surprisingly, the NHSM as well as the Hadley and Walker circulations have all shown substantial intensification, with a striking increase of NHSM rainfall by 9.5% per degree of global warming. This is unexpected from recent theoretical prediction and model projections of the 21st century. The intensification is primarily attributed to a mega-El Niño/Southern Oscillation (a leading mode of interannual-to-interdecadal variation of global sea surface temperature) and the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation, and further influenced by hemispherical asymmetric global warming. These factors driving the present changes of the NHSM system are instrumental for understanding and predicting future decadal changes and determining the proportions of climate change that are attributable to anthropogenic effects and long-term internal variability in the complex climate system.
Michalak, A.M., E.J. Anderson, D. Beletsky, S. Boland, N.S. Bosch, T.B. Bridgeman, J.D. Chaffin, K. Cho, R. Confesor, I. Daloğlu, J.V. DePinto, M.A. Evans, G.L. Fahnenstiel, L. He, J.C. Ho, L. Jenkins, T.H. Johengen, K.C. Kuo, E. LaPorte, X. Liu, M.R. McWilliams, M.R. Moore, D.J. Posselt, R.P. Richards, D. Scavia, A.L. Steiner, E. Verhamme, D.M. Wright, and M.A. Zagorski, 2013: “Record-setting algal bloom in Lake Erie caused by agricultural and meteorological trends consistent with expected future conditions.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, doi: 10.1073/pnas.1216006110.
In 2011, Lake Erie experienced the largest harmful algal bloom in its recorded history, with a peak intensity over three times greater than any previously observed bloom. Here we show that long-term trends in agricultural practices are consistent with increasing phosphorus loading to the western basin of the lake, and that these trends, coupled with meteorological conditions in spring 2011, produced record-breaking nutrient loads. An extended period of weak lake circulation then led to abnormally long residence times that incubated the bloom, and warm and quiescent conditions after bloom onset allowed algae to remain near the top of the water column and prevented flushing of nutrients from the system. We further find that all of these factors are consistent with expected future conditions. If a scientifically guided management plan to mitigate these impacts is not implemented, we can therefore expect this bloom to be a harbinger of future blooms in Lake Erie.
Alexander, K., M. Carzolio, D. Goodin, and E. Vance, 2013: “Climate change is likely to worsen the public health threat of diarrheal disease in Botswana.” International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health v. 10, pp. 1202-1230, doi: 10.3390/ijerph10041202.
Diarrheal disease is an important health challenge, accounting for the majority of childhood deaths globally. Climate change is expected to increase the global burden of diarrheal disease but little is known regarding climate drivers, particularly in Africa. Using health data from Botswana spanning a 30-year period (1974–2003), we evaluated monthly reports of diarrheal disease among patients presenting to Botswana health facilities and compared this to climatic variables. Diarrheal case incidence presents with a bimodal cyclical pattern with peaks in March (ANOVA p < 0.001) and October (ANOVA p < 0.001) in the wet and dry season, respectively. There is a strong positive autocorrelation (p < 0.001) in the number of reported diarrhea cases at the one-month lag level. Climatic variables (rainfall, minimum temperature, and vapor pressure) predicted seasonal diarrheal with a one-month lag in variables (p < 0.001). Diarrheal case incidence was highest in the dry season after accounting for other variables, exhibiting on average a 20% increase over the yearly mean (p < 0.001). Our analysis suggests that forecasted climate change increases in temperature and decreases in precipitation may increase dry season diarrheal disease incidence with hot, dry conditions starting earlier and lasting longer. Diarrheal disease incidence in the wet season is likely to decline. Our results identify significant health-climate interactions, highlighting the need for an escalated public health focus on controlling diarrheal disease in Botswana. Study findings have application to other arid countries in Africa where diarrheal disease is a persistent public health problem.