Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Climate Change Effects and Water Vulnerability in the Molalla Pudding River Basin, Oregon, USA
by Wherry, Susan Amelia, M.S., Portland State University, 2012, 72; 1529785
Abstract (Summary)

Water management plans are typically developed using historical data records and historical return periods for extreme events, such as floods or droughts. Since these analyses of return periods typically assume a certain degree of stationarity (constant mean, standard deviation, distribution) in hydrologic variables, the potential future impacts of climate change are excluded. In developing water management plans, predicted changes to climate variables should be considered to evaluate the degree of non-stationarity that may exist in the future. In this way, regions most sensitive to climate change can be identified and managed appropriately.

This study performed such a task by using predicted climate data that were downscaled from general circulation models (GCM) by regional climate models (RCM) to compare climate variables in the historical period of 1971-1998 to the future period of 2041-2068. The study evaluated the precipitation and minimum/maximum temperature data from five different GCM/RCM combinations: 1) CCSM/CRCM; 2) CCSM/WRFG; 3) CGCM3/CRCM; 4) CGCM3/WRFG; and 5) HadCM3/HRM3. The five datasets were then used to calculate drought indices and drive a calibrated PRMS model of the Molalla Pudding river basin in order to evaluate changes in droughts and streamflow. The predicted changes in droughts and streamflow were then evaluated with social/economic factors for twelve cities in the Molalla Pudding river basin by two different water vulnerability indices. The index values were used to determine a rank for each city that indicated its relative vulnerability to water scarcity as compared to the other cities.

In this study, three out of the five datasets predicted increased precipitation (+97-115 mm/year) over the Molalla Pudding basin and the two datasets using the CCSM GCM data predicted either no change or slightly decreased precipitation (-60 mm/year) over the Molalla Pudding basin in 2041-2068. All datasets predicted increased minimum and maximum average temperature of +1.5°C and +1.4°C respectively, and all datasets displayed increasing trends in temperature. The drought indices predicted fewer drought events (-2.4 events) over 2041-2068 with no change in duration, and no change to the number of serious drought events over 2041-2068 but with increased durations (+1.9 months). Results from the hydrologic modeling predicted increased streamflow (+4-249 cfs) in four out of the five future datasets. Using the predicted changes in hydrologic variables and social/economic census data from 2000, two types of water vulnerability indices were calculated for the twelve cities of interest. The results suggested that cities in the western portion of the basin would be more susceptible to current and future water vulnerability due to high irrigation demands for water and high social vulnerability as determined by minority populations and higher poverty, while the small cities with less dependence on agriculture would be less vulnerable.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Moradkhani, Hamid
Commitee: Jay, David, Yeakley, Alan
School: Portland State University
Department: Civil and Environmental Engineering
School Location: United States -- Oregon
Source: MAI 51/03M(E), Masters Abstracts International
Subjects: Hydrologic sciences, Climate Change
Keywords: Climate change, Oregon, United States of America, Water vulnerability
Publication Number: 1529785
ISBN: 978-1-267-74622-1
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