Understanding the Hydrological Response of Changed Environmental Boundary Conditions in Semi-Arid Regions: Role of Model Choice and Model Calibration
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
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AbstractArid and semi-arid basins in the Western United States (US) have been significantly impacted by human alterations to the water cycle and are among the most susceptible to water stress from urbanization and climate change. The climate of the Western US is projected to change in response to rising greenhouse gas concentrations. Combined with land use/land cover (LULC) change, it can influence both surface and groundwater resources, both of which are a significant source of water in the US. Responding to this challenge requires an improved understanding of how we are vulnerable and the development of strategies for managing future risk. In this dissertation, I explored how hydrology of semi-arid regions responds to LULC and climate change and how hydrologic projections are influenced by the choice and calibration of models. The three main questions I addressed with this dissertation are: 1. Is it important to calibrate models for forecasting absolute/relative changes in streamflow from LULC and climate changes? 2. Do LSMs make reasonable estimates of groundwater recharge in the western US? 3. How might recharge change under projected climate change in the western US? Results from this study suggested that it is important to calibrate the model spatially to analyze the effect of LULC change but not as important for analyzing the relative change in streamflow due to climate change. Our results also highlighted that LSMs have the potential to capture the spatial and temporal patterns as well as seasonality of recharge at large scales. Therefore, LSMs (specifically VIC and Noah) can be used as a tool for estimating current and future recharge in data limited regions. Average annual recharge is projected to increase in about 62% of the region and decrease in about 38% of the western US in future and varies significantly based on location (-50% - +94 for near future and -90% to >100% for far future). Recharge is expected to decrease significantly (-13%) in the South region in the far future. The Northern Rockies region is expected to get more recharge in both in the near (+5.1%) and far (+9.0%) future. Overall, this study suggested that land use/land cover (LULC) change and climate change significantly impacts hydrology in semi-arid regions. Model choice and model calibrations also influence the hydrological predictions. Hydrological projections from models have associated uncertainty, but still provide valuable information for water managers with long term water management planning.
Degree ProgramGraduate College