Use of NASA Land Data Assimilated Products to Improve Flood and Drought Risk Analysis and Forecasting for Water Resources Management in the Columbia River Basin

Project ID: 9343
Principal Investigator: Steven Hunter
Research Topic: Water Supply Forecasting
Funded Fiscal Years: 2005 and 2006
Keywords: None

Research Question

How can sophisticated land data assimilation systems and land surface models be used to reduce uncertainty of extreme event forecasts? How much water will be liberated through more accurate and timely flood and drought forecasts? The main goal is to improve forecasts of extreme events - floods and droughts by retrospective testing and near real-time forecasts of NASA Land Data Assimilation System (LDAS) products for Reclamation's water resource management and operations to improve flood and drought risk analysis and decision making. The LDAS home page is

Need and Benefit

Current flood and drought forecasts have difficulty predicting extreme streamflows and low water supplies. Streamflows from snowmelt have been particularly problematic for the National Weather Service operational forecasts, on which Reclamation water managers rely for decision support. This project addresses new techniques that may significantly improve these forecasts using more sophisticated remote sensing, satellite, radar, and numerical modeling methods. Many of these methods have been developed in the Global Energy and Water Cycle Experiment (GEWEX) Continental-Scale International Project (GCIP) and GEWEX American Prediction Project (GAPP) projects of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).

The goal of the proposed research application project is to develop and demonstrate the value added by information from satellite, radar, LDAS and related products in the improvement of flood and drought forecasts. The forecasts will be used by water resource managers and emergency managers, initially in the Yakima River Basin, a tributary of the Upper Columbia River Basin, as a model demonstration. This research effort will build partnerships among scientists at NASA, scientists and engineers at Reclamation, and staff at the National Weather Service (NWS) River Forecast Centers to test and evaluate different land surface models and hydrologic runoff models that simulate and forecast flood and drought events. These models will use satellite and radar remote sensing information and conventional surface observations to demonstrate the value added to improved streamflow simulations and forecasts. A major initial focus will be quantifying the snow water equivalent (SWE) in mountain snowpacks, to better estimate snowmelt runoff contributions. This prototype demonstration may then be applied in other basins managed by Reclamation in the western United States such as the Columbia, American, Truckee, Upper and Lower Colorado, and Upper Missouri River Basins.

We estimate liberated water available due to improved forecasts at the 0.1 % level of natural flows on the Columbia, yielding ~>70,000 af /yr (normal flows at ~ 100,000 cfs * 365 days 71,404,958.68 = 71KAF).

Contributing Partners


Last Updated: June 29, 2015