Design and Development of a Prototype Tool for Integrated Climate Downscaling and Streamflow Prediction using Open Source GIS Software

Project ID: 9449
Principal Investigator: Greg Gault
Research Topic: Water Operation Models and Decision Support Systems
Priority Area Assignments: 2013 (Climate Change and Variability Research), 2014 (Climate Change and Variability Research)
Funded Fiscal Years: 2013 and 2014
Keywords: open source gis, climate change, gcm downscaling

Research Question

How can the development of interactive, open source GIS-based software and geospatial analytical tools improve Reclamation's use of its current and future investments in Global Climate Model (GCM) data downscaling and regional hydrologic model simulations at geographic scales appropriate for assessing climate change impacts to water operations and ecological resources?

Need and Benefit

Reclamation, along with other resource management agencies, recognizes the critical importance of addressing potential impacts of climate change to the operation and development of its water resources management infrastructure. The joint Reclamation and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers publication, "Addressing Climate Change in Long-Term Water Resources Planning and Management: User Needs for Improving Tools and Information," summarizes and categorizes a number of tools and information needs (i.e., gaps). The final gap category is "Communicating Results and Uncertainties to Decisionmakers;" addressing this gap is the fundamental driver of this proposal.

More specifically, these proposed software tools may be well-suited to support the West-Wide Climate Risk Assessment (WWCRA) Team's efforts to continue to respond to the SECURE Water Act enacted in 2009. In alignment with that Act, Reclamation is conducting a range of vulnerability and assessment studies and implementing results across the West to address the potential impacts of climate change on reservoir operations, ecological resources, hydropower, and water delivery.

As part of a WWCRA effort, future streamflow was routed to almost 200 sites across the West at key major river locations or at gauged USGS Hydroclimate Data Network Sites, which are generally located in the headwaters of rivers. These pre-packaged flow data are made available through the Streamflow Projections for the Western United States web map ( This proposal's geospatial software tools are intended to serve additional geographic scales and areas of interest which will more broadly support Reclamation's mission, for example in habitat restoration and improvements to water quality. It will provide the ability to query streamflow projections to evaluate the potential impacts of climate change at specific sites of interest in addition to the key locations at which streamflow has already been routed.

Contributing Partners

Contact the Principal Investigator for information about partners.

Research Products

Bureau of Reclamation Review

The following documents were reviewed by experts in fields relating to this project's study and findings. The results were determined to be achieved using valid means.

Design and Development of a Prototype Tool for Integrated Climate Downscaling and Streamflow Prediction using Open Source GIS Software (final, PDF, 1.6MB)
By Greg Gault
Publication completed on September 30, 2016

This research project developed prototype tools for acquiring, processing and managing global climate model data using an open source GIS platform. The project identified software requirements of people with the most immediate need for accessing and processing downscaled climate data, and then developed a suite of tools to: 1) assist users acquire global climate model data for user-defined areas of interest, 2) assist users select ensembles from numerous projection scenarios using statistical methods, and 3) generate forcing file outputs for selected hydrologic models.

Making Sense of Global Climate Projection Data (final, PDF, 587KB)
By Greg Gault
R&D Bulletin completed on July 01, 2017

This bulletin summarizes the research results and potential application to Reclamations mission.

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Last Updated: 6/22/20