Environmental and Societal Impacts Group

Enhancing Productivity and Resilience of Natural Resources


The Case of the 1997-98 El Niño:
Reducing the Impact of Environmental Emergencies

The UN Fund for International Partnerships, an organization created by CNN founder Ted Turner with a gift of $1 billion, awarded a grant to the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and NCAR to conduct a 19-month study of the impacts of the 1997-98 El Niño event in ten countries, with six additional ones added for a total of 16, in the following regions: Pacific Rim countries, Southeast Asia, Subsaharan Africa, and Latin America. Michael Glantz is the Principal Investigator for this study, which runs from 15 May 1999 to the end of the calendar year 2000. It is a cooperative effort among the following United Nations agencies (in addition to UNEP and NCAR's Environmental and Societal Impacts Group): the World Meteorological Organization's World Climate Program (WMO), The International Decade for Natural Disaster Reduction (IDNDR), and the United Nations University's Environment and Sustainable Development Programme.

globeDuring FY99, Glantz developed methods for the assessment and a detailed Implementation Plan in consultation with the core group of advisors. He identified team leaders for the sixteen countries and organized and chaired a First Meeting of Team Leaders 8-10 July 1999 in Geneva, Switzerland. This was held in conjunction with the IDNDR's Programme Forum in Geneva (Switzerland) so that the team leaders, the PI, and the UN agencies involved in the project could attend a session of the Forum. Thirty-five country case study leaders and core advisors attended the workshop, held at the new WMO building in Geneva.

Glantz and Stewart prepared the workshop report and provided input to Oxelson (ESIG's webmaster) to continue development of the Web site (ccb.ucar.edu/un/) for the project, in consultation with the team leaders and core advisors. They continue to provide guidance and assist the team leaders for the continued development of the country case studies.

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US National Assessment

Kathleen Miller collaborated with Dennis Ojima, Luis Garcia, E. Elgaali, and Jill Lackett (all of Colorado State University, Ft. Collins, CO) and Timothy Kittel (CGD), on a project in support of the US National Assessment. They wrote a paper assessing water resource sector vulnerabilities in the US Central Grain Plains Region, as well as policy issues relating to the potential effects of global climate change on the region's water resources. This paper will appear in the December 1999 issue of the Journal of the American Water Resources Association. Miller also moderated and helped to organize the water resources discussion group at the Central Great Plains Assessment Meeting in Loveland, CO, March 1999. She wrote a description of these discussions for the Central Grain Plains Assessment report. Miller also served as a member of the Steering Committee for the Southwest Regional Assessment. In that capacity, she provided advice and editorial services to that assessment effort.

Linda Mearns is a member of the National Agriculture Sector Team, US National Assessment. During FY99, she gave presentations on the role of extreme events in agriculture at various team workshops and is a major contributor to the Report of the the Agriculture Sector, particularly the chapter on climate variability and crops. She is also a member of the Climate Change Scenarios Writing Team for the Assessment. On a regional level, she is a member of the Assessment Teams for the Southwest Region and the Rocky Mountain Basin and Range Region. On both teams, she has provided advice on development and use of the climate change scenarios, and has contributed to both Regional Assessment Reports.

Comparison of Current Climate from Two Coupled Atmosphere-Ocean Global Climate Models against Observations and Evaluation of their Future Climates. In a project funded by the NIGEC (National Institute for Global Environmental Change) National Office, Mearns, with Ruth Doherty (U East Anglia, UK) evaluated the control runs of the two major A/O GCMs being used to provide climate change scenarios for impacts used in the US National Assessment: the Canadian CGCMI and the British HADCM2. Both the control runs and future runs were evaluated. A report has been prepared, and the results are displayed at the National Assessment Scenarios Web site as well as at the ESIG web site.

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IPCC Working Groups

Miller is a lead author on Chapter 15: North America, in the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) Working Group II Third Assessment Report. This chapter examines the potential impacts of global climate change on the United States and Canada, identifying both ulnerabilities and possible adaptations to that change. She is contributing to several sections of the chapter, in particular the sections dealing with water resources, fisheries, and impacts on industry.

Mearns is co-convening Lead Author of Chapter 13: Climate Scenario Development, in the Working Group I report of the IPCC Third Assessment Report. This is a new chapter in the report, developed by Mearns and co-author Michael Hulme (U East Anglia, Norwich, UK). It acts as an important bridge between the climate science of Working Group I and the Climate Impact Science of Working Group II. She is also a lead author of Chapter 10: Regional Climate Analysis, of the Working Group I Report, which assesses regionalization techniques such as statistical downscaling, regional climate modeling, and stretched GCM grid techniques. Mearns is also a contributor to Chapter 9: Climate Change Projections. In Working Group II she is a lead author of Chapter 3: The Development and Application of Scenarios in Climate Change Impact, Adaptation and Vulnerability Assessment. This is another new chapter for the Third Assessment Report, which discusses and integrates all types of scenarios needed for performing climate change impacts and integrated assessments. It acts as the other half of the bridge between Working Groups I and II.

During FY99, the zero-order and first drafts of these chapters were completed. Both Miller and Mearns traveled extensively during FY99 in support of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Mearns also continued her participation on the IPCC TGCIA (Task Group for Formation of Climate Change Scenarios for Impacts Assessment). This group develops guidance material for the use of climate change scenarios and maintains the DDC (Data Distribution Center) from which impacts scientists can obtain a range of state-of-the-art global climate change scenarios.

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Climate Variability and Agriculture in the
Southeast United States

Work on three overlapping three-year projects (NASA/USEPA/USDA) has continued by Mearns, Katz, McDaniel, Tsvetsinskaya, Gregory Carbone (U South Carolina), Bette Walker-Shea (U Nebraska), and William Easterling (Pennsylvania State U). Regional climate modeling and conditioned stochastic modeling form the basis of several different types of climate change scenarios. Remote sensing, crop and economic modeling, and spatial scaling analysis make up the other elements of the projects. Major accomplishments in the projects during FY99 include: (i) Formation of climate change scenarios on two different spatial scales (coarse and fine) for the southeast, using a nested regional climate model approach; (ii) production runs of six different crop models using a baseline climate data set and the two different resolution climate scenarios on a baseline grid of 0.5 by 0.5 degrees, calculation of percentage changes in yield (from baseline), and comparison of these for the coarse and fine scenarios. (iii) Production of two different resolution scenarios for the rest of the United States (with a coarser baseline grid); (iv) Application of the yield results to an agricultural sector model (ASM); (iv) Advanced work on remotely sensed AVHRR and SPOT data; (v) Analysis of observed temperature and precipitation data sets in the Southeast US for development of stochastic models conditioned on the Bermuda High Index. (See also Climate Scenario Generation/Statistical Downscaling).

Highlights of results: We found that significantly different changes in yield resulted from the two different scenarios, when calculated on the common 50-km grid of the regional climate model, for the case of climate change only and for that of climate change plus CO2 effects [mean yield comparisons]. In the climate-change-only case, for most crops yield decreased for the two scenarios, but decreases were greater when determined from the regional climate scenario [percentage change in corn yields]. Simulated cotton yields, however, increased for both scenarios [percentage change in cotton yields]. We then aggregated the yield results to the economic units (usually states) required for use in the Agricultural Sector Model (ASM), and found that for some states the significantly different results persisted. The economic model was run for the base case, and for the two climate change plus direct CO2 cases.

For the country as a whole, both climate change scenarios resulted in increased total surplus for the agricultural sector, but the coarse resolution scenario produced twice the surplus ($4.6 billion) compared to the fine-scale scenarios ($2.3 billion). Regional index numbers for the total value of production, which is a measure of economic activity within the regions, show interesting contrasts across the regions, based on the scenarios [regional index values]. The southeast shows the largest decreases in activity for both scenarios, but the decrease with the fine-scale scenario is much larger. Results indicate that the scale of climate change scenario substantially affects the simulation of changes in crop yields on various levels of spatial aggregation. These results further confirm the earlier results of Mearns et al., 1999, but for a larger region and a greater variety of crops. Moreover, we have demonstrated that these contrasts in changes in yield are substantial enough to affect the results of an agricultural economic model both on national and regional levels.

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Yangtse Delta in China as Evolving Metro-Agro-Plex

A three-year project funded by NASA on this subject was pursued by Mearns, McDaniel, Giorgi, and Wei Gao, in collaboration with Bill Chameides (Georgia Institute of Technology). This is an international, multidisciplinary research project focusing on the effects of regional environmental change on agriculture in China, the most populous and rapidly developing nation in the world. The project includes the assessment of major pollutants (ground level ozone, nitrogen oxides, gaseous sulfur oxides) and their effects on present-day and future agricultural yields of crops, as well as the effects of particulate emissions and land-use changes on the regional climate in China and their concomitant impact on future agricultural yields. Mearns and colleagues are modeling primarily wheat and rice crops for the region, using CERES and UCLA-YIELD crop models. The CERES Wheat and Rice models have been validated tested for locations within the Yangtze River Delta, using data supplied by colleagues at the Jiangsu Academy of Agricultural Sciences, Nanjing. Sensitivity analyses of the crop model responses to decreased solar radiation have been performed. Decreases in solar radiation occur in the region due to heavy sulfate emissions. Results indicate that a 10% increase (decrease) in solar irradiance produces about a 10% increase (decrease) in simulated wheat yields. A similar linear response was found for rice [percentage change in crop yields]. A paper covering the effects of decreased solar radiation on what and rice is in press in the Proceedings of the the National Academy of Sciences and will appear in FY00.

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Creeping Environmental Problems and Sustainable Development in the Aral Sea Basin (Cambridge University Press, 1999)

book coverMultifaceted environmental degradation in the Aral Sea basin has been a touchstone for increasing public awareness of environmental change issues. The Aral crisis has been touted as a "quiet Chernobyl" and is one of the worst human-made environmental catastrophes of the twentieth century. Just a few decades ago, it was the fourth largest inland body of water in the world. Today, it has fallen to sixth place, and it continues to shrink.

This book, edited by Glantz, represents the culmination of five years of research begun in FY95 for the Water Unit of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), with some initial support from the Water Unit. Twelve key environmental changes in the Aral Sea Basin were identified for assessment in terms of the thresholds of creeping environmental problems associated with them. Each member of a team of twelve Russian, Uzbek, Turkmen, and Kazak experts focused on one of these changes. Each expert had a decade or more of researching a specific environmental problem. Support was provided to them to prepare their chapters. Glantz initiated the development of a theoretical framework in a UNEP/NCAR workshop on Creeping Environmental Problems in 1994. This was organized to identify thresholds of problem awareness, crisis, and policy action for their respective problems. Glantz traveled to Russia several times on trips of opportunity during the FY95-99 period to discuss translation problems and to edit the manuscripts for clarity. The book presents these case studies as lessons to be learned for other areas undergoing creeping environmental change, especially for terminal inland seas. It provides an important multidisciplinary example of how to approach such environmental disasters for students and researchers of environmental studies, global change, political science, and history.

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Water Resource Development Policy in the
Senegal River Valley

Work during FY99 involved the organization of two panels entitled "Social Science Dimensions and Policy Contributions to Climate Change Research: African Perspectives, Session I"; and "Global-Local Dimensions, Session II," for the Annual Meeting of the Society for Applied Anthropology held in Tucson, Arizona, 20-25 April 1999. John Magistro (ASP) presented a paper entitled "Variable Climate and Vulnerable Peasants: Historical and Human Dimensions of Water Resource Constraint in the Senegal River Valley." Magistro is currently co-organizing two journal special volumes based upon those panels for a series of papers to be published in Climate Research and Human Ecology in FY00. A two-month field project in Senegal (October-November 1998), jointly funded by ASP and ESIG, enabled Magistro to collect new data on climate variability and social vulnerability to drought and flooding, and indigenous knowledge and forecasting of weather events. Research results will appear in FY00.

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Columbia River Water Resources and Climate Change

Kathleen Miller collaborated with Stewart Cohen (Environment Canada), Alan Hamlet (JISAO, University of Washington), and Wendy Avis (Environment Canada) on a paper on climate change and resource management in the Columbia River Basin. The paper examines the potential impacts of several global climate change scenarios on the Basin's hydrology and water-related natural resources and describes the transboundary policy aspects of such impacts. The assessment utilizes (1) estimates of system reliability produced by a reservoir model with performance measures; and (2) the results of interviedws with water managers and other stakeholders in the Canadian portion of the Basin. Both approaches suggest a tendency toward reduced reliability to meet objectives for power production, fisheries, and agriculture. Reliability for flood control objectives is unchanged in some scenarios but reduced in others. The paper will appear in the December 1999 issue of Water International.

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Transboundary Fisheries: Pacific Salmon

Miller collaborted with Robert McKelvey (University of Montana) and Gordon Munro (University of British Columbia) on a project that extends her previous work on the international management of Pacific salmon resources in the presence of climate-related variations in abundance. This project develops a game-theoretic model of competitive harvesting in an uncertain, stochastic environment in order to shed light on factors that contributed to a collapse in binational cooperation under the terms of the Pacific Salmon Treaty. During FY99, Miller and McKelvey wrote a paper, "The Pacific Salmon Dispute: Rationalizing a Dysfunctional Joint Venture" that has been accepted by the American Fisheries Society to appear in a book entitled, Sustainability of Salmon Resources: Binational Perspectives. The paper employs simplified game-theoretic models to examine the harvest allocation policies that have been the focus on conflict between the United States and Canada during the past several years of turmoil.

Miller also completed work on another paper for a special issue of Climatic Change, incorporating recent developments, including the signing of a new Treaty Agreement. The paper assesses the strengths and weaknesses of this new Agreement, which may or may not withstand the test of time. In addition, Miller and her colleagues have conducted a series of intensive interviews with fishery management officials and high-level national negotiators to collect historical information, assess perspectives on the latest round of negotiations, and to provide guidance to the modeling effort.

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Climate Variability and Water Resources in the
Interior West

Miller collaborated with Steven Gloss (University of Wyoming) on a book chapter, "Social, Policy, and Institutional Issues," for an edited volume on climate variability and water resources in the Interior West. This book summarizes a meeting on this topic sponsored by CIRES and funded by NOAA's Office of Global Programs. The chapter reviews the historical development and current features of the institutional setting governing human water uses in the Interior West, highlighting differences in state law and policy across the region. The chapter then examines the policy and institutional issues relating to the impacts of climate variability on the socially valued services and attributes of water resources in the region. These include not only traditional use values derived from irrigation, hydropower, municipal and industrial uses, but also the value of water for environmental and recreational purposes.

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Uncertainty Analysis for Climate Change and Its Impacts

book coverKatz wrote a discussion paper on "Techniques for Estimating Uncertainty in Climate Change Scenarios and Impact Studies" for an ECLAT-2 workshop on "Representing Uncertainty in Climate Change Scenarios and Impact Studies." This paper focuses on recent developments in statistics, such as hierarchical modeling and Markov chain Monte Carlo simulation techniques, that could enable more full-fledged uncertainty analyses to be performed as part of integrated assessments of climate change and its impacts.

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Table of Contents | Enhancing Resilience of Natural Resources | Protection of Life & Property
Fundamental Research | Education & Outreach | FY99 Scientific Highlights
FY99 Publications | FY99 Educational Activities | FY99 Community Service
FY99 Staff, Visitors & Collaborators | Environmental & Societal Impacts Group
ESIG 1999 Annual Scientific Report Home Page | NCAR 1999 Annual Scientific Report Home Page

FY99 Scientific Highlights Education and Outreach Fundamental Research Protection of Life and Property Enhancing Resilience of Natural Resources Table of Contents Environmental and Societal Impacts Group FY99 Staff, Visitors and Collaborators FY99 Community Service FY99 Educational Activities FY99 Publications NCAR Annual Scientific Report NCAR Annual Scientific Report NCAR Annual Scientific Report