North American Regional Hydroclimate Project Initiative

Water availability is one of the key challenges in the context of climate change. Linked with alterations in various parts of the water cycle, it can be associated with impacts on human society through changes in droughts, floods, and long-term water resources.

The hydrological, biogeophysical, and Earth science communities have come together to develop a robust effort that addresses the water challenges facing the central western North American continent. This includes regions of the U.S. and Canada, which are particularly affected by climate-related water changes.

In May of 2016, a workshop explored creating a Regional Hydroclimate Project that tackles water availability from different vantage points: high resolution climate modeling, evaluation of climate projections, mountain hydrology, observations, ecosystem science, socioeconomic and political impacts, and the intersection of water, energy, and people. Notes from the meeting are available here.

The broad agenda for science questions includes water cycles in complex terrain, which remain a challenge for researchers. Complex terrain across the contiguous United States, specifically mountain hydrology and hydrometeorology, has a role in the initiation and nesting of natural hazards from severe storms to flash floods. Its relationship to hydrogeologic and physiographic regions in the East and West defines large-scale groundwater recharge and groundwater basins for ecosystems and water resources at both regional and national levels. The North American Cordillera mountain chain in the west and the Appalachian Mountains in the East are two continental divides that organize weather and climate, modulating hydrology, vegetation, and more from north to south and east to west. Their role could be one of the focus points for the initiative, as could the Rocky Mountains and their headwaters, which provide water to millions of people.