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Determining the impact of a severe dry to wet transition on watershed hydrodynamics in California, USA with an integrated hydrologic model

  • Author(s): Maina, FZ
  • Siirila-Woodburn, ER
  • Newcomer, M
  • Xu, Z
  • Steefel, C
  • et al.
Abstract

© 2019 With the onset of climate change, regions relied upon for water supply are increasingly subject to end-member fluctuations between periods of severe drought followed by extreme precipitation. The impacts of these extreme conditions on watershed hydrodynamics in water-resource sensitive regions such as California are unknown despite their great importance for resilience and water management purposes. Understanding these impacts requires high-resolution physically based models to capture sharp variations of topography, land use, wetting fronts, etc. An integrated hydrologic model was used in a high-performance computing framework to study the complex nonlinear dynamics occurring at a representative Californian watershed. The Cosumnes Watershed, one of the last major rivers in California without a dam, offers a rare opportunity to isolate the effects of water management from climate extremes. Here, we show model validation with comparisons between model outputs and local measurements in addition to various satellite-based products including (1) Snow Water Equivalent (SWE) with Snow Data Assimilation System (SNODAS) and a reconstruction method by Bair and co-authors, (2) soil moisture with Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP), and (3) evapotranspiration (ET) with Mapping Evapotranspiration at high Resolution with Internalized Calibration (METRIC). To assess changes in hydrodynamic behavior during climate extremes and their transitions, a simulation spanning a recent drought followed by the highest precipitation year on record (2015–2017) is discussed. From these simulations, we are able to highlight regions that are the most sensitive to climate extremes, which depend on many factors including hydrologic connectivity, geology and topography. These analyses provide a better understanding of the physical phenomena occurring in the watershed, strengthening our knowledge of how the system may respond to extreme conditions which might become the “new normal.”

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