"Stochastic Decadal Projections of Colorado River Streamflow and Reservoir Pool Elvations Conditioned on Temperature Projections" was published in the Water Resources Research Journal, December 2021. Co-Authors include David Woodson, Balaji Rajagopalan, Sarah Baker, James Prairie, Erin Towler, Ming Ge, and Edith Zagona.
The Colorado River Basin (CRB) is a critical resource for tens of millions in the North American southwest but does not provide consistent streamflow year to year and is susceptible to multiyear droughts. While many good forecasts for Colorado River flow exist at seasonal time scales, projections beyond 1 year into the future perform little better than simply using a long-term average, despite the importance of these so-called “decadal” projections for water resource planning. As past studies have found that CRB streamflow is moderately influenced by air temperature, we seek to leverage relatively accurate climate model projections of temperature to improve CRB flow forecasts at decadal time scales using a statistical model. We find modest improvements in decadal projections of pool elevation at Lakes Powell and Mead compared to a standard method, supporting the potential for use of climate model projections in flow forecasting.