University of Colorado at Boulder

Colloquia Event

Friday November 05, 2010. 03:30 pm. GUGG 205

Spatial-complexity in scenarios of eco-hydrologic responses to warming in the Western US

Christina Tague

University of California, Santa Barbara

In the mountains of the Western US, the impacts of a warmer climate on eco-hydrologic processes will reflect the complex spatial heterogeneity and temporal patterns of moisture and energy inputs. As part of the USGS Western Mountain Initiative, we integrate measurements and modeling to characterize these patterns of response to climate warming, and show how impacts will vary at local to regional scales. For example, many studies have shown that, in the Western US, the loss of seasonal snowpacks with warming leads to a reduction in late summer streamflow and warmer stream temperatures with potentially deleterious consequences for aquatic ecosystems. We show how the magnitude of these effects will vary as a function of topographic and latitudinal controls on snow dynamics and geologic controls on drainage. We show how forest behavior, including productivity, mortality and vulnerability to disturbance respond to warming in Western mountains and begin to identify how these responses may vary with the spatial-temporal structure of energy and moisture availability. Results from our work highlight the importance of and challenge in developing future scenarios that downscale broad regional understanding of climate change impacts to local scales.