Hydrologic processes, hydroclimatology, and modeling

Ben Livneh

Illustration of a sensor network installation at the CU-Boulder, Niwot Ridge Mountain Research Station to study the impacts of vegetation interactions on hydrologic connectivity in an alpine environment (Livneh Research Group).

Ben Livneh's research group addresses physical hydrology problems across multiple scales. Major research themes include physically-based hydrologic model development, land-cover/land-use change, snow hydrology, and hydroclimatology. The group is focused on applying models in innovative ways that integrate remote sensing and in situ observations to understand how changes in climate and land cover will affect water availability at the land surface. Specific research objectives include (i) Diagnosis of the roles of antecedent moisture and extreme meteorology on historic flood events, (ii) Assessment of the contributions of low precipitation and high temperatures on major drought events, (iii) Simulation of catchment hydrologic and sediment responses to land cover disturbance, and (iv) Development of continental-scale datasets to assess climate change impacts. Ongoing and completed projects involve partnerships with the NASA, the EPA, the USACE, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and NOAA. Professor Livneh is a co-Investigator of the Western Water Assessment (WWA), and holds affiliations in Environmental Engineering (EVEN), the department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences (ATOC), and is a Fellow of the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES).

Balaji Rajagopalan has research focused on three interconnected themes: (i) Understanding the large-scale climate drivers of year-to-year and multidecadal variability of regional hydrology (ii) Developing ensemble hydrologic forecast and simulation tools that incorporate the large-scale climate information and, (iii) Coupling the forecasts with water resources decision support system. To enable this, his group’s research advances the use of parametric and nonparametric function estimation techniques, for modeling and simulation of space-time variability of processes and extreme events. These have been applied to a variety of contexts – hydroclimate, paleoclimate, water quality, health, construction management and building systems.  Some of his recent research involves - (i) Developing stochastic space-time weather generation techniques to model the interactions between climate, ground water table,  and agricultural land use decisions in the Argentine Pampas. The project explores the links between water, food production and human interactions. (ii) Modeing spatial and temporal extremes of precipitation and streamflow in the Western U.S using Bayesian hierarchical techniques. (iii) Understanding the variability of summer rainfall and hydrology over South West U.S. and the implications for ecology and water resources and (iv) Investingating the variability and predictability of Indian monsoon from interannual to millennial time scales.  Prof. Rajagopalan is also a fellow of the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES).

Mike Goosef

Associate Professor Michael Gooseff

Michael Gooseff’s research group focuses on the intersections of earth systems and ecosystems. It is at this interface that we conduct field and modeling studies to determine how natural systems function and how their functions are likely to change under modified conditions (be it climate change or other natural or anthropogenic forcing). Our studies focus on 1) stream-groundwater interactions and hyporheic zone processes, and their impact on water quality, 2) hydrology and ecosystems in polar regions (northern Alaska and Antarctica) and their responses to changing climate in these regions, and 3) headwater catchment hydrologic processes and their impact on water quality and quantity. In all of our studies we leverage field data collection/experiments with numerical modeling to quantify processes. Dr. Gooseff is a fellow of the Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research (INSTAAR).

Roseanna Neupauer combines standard numerical simulation approaches with advanced mathematical methods, including adjoint theory, chaotic advection, and wavelet analysis, to investigate a wide range of topics related to flow and transport in natural and man-made water systems. Current research projects address groundwater remediation, stream depletion, aquifer vulnerability, and characterization of contaminant sources in aquifers. In a project funded by the National Science Foundation, Prof. Neupauer’s group is exploring innovative strategies to enhance contaminant degradation during in situ remediation of aquifers. This work uses principles of chaotic advection to create time-dependent flow fields, induced by a sequence of injections and extractions of water in the vicinity of the contaminant plume, that spreads a treatment solution into the plume, promoting mixing and degradation reactions between the treatment solution and contaminant. Simulation and optimization techniques are used to develop strategies to maximize contaminant degradation for a wide range of chemical and aquifer properties.

Water resources systems and management

Joseph Kasprzyk’s group uses multiobjective optimization, simulation modeling, and interactive analytics to balance conflicting objectives for water supply and environmental management. The goal is to advance innovative methods for risk-based planning under deep uncertainty, in which decision makers do not know or cannot agree on the full suite of risks to their system. In a new project recently sponsored by the US Environmental Protection Agency, Profs. Rajagopalan, Silverstein, and Kasprzyk will be researching in the Center for Comprehensive, OptimaL and Effective Abatement of Nutrients (CLEAN). The center will combine urban planning, water resources management, and wastewater treatment research to create innovative solutions to balance multiple objectives for improving water quality. Prof. Kasprzyk also interacts with Western Water Assessment and the Center for Advanced Decision Support for Environmental and Water Resources Systems on water management in the Western US.

Edith Zagona heads the Center for Advanced Decision Support for Water and Environmental Systems (CADSWES). CADSWES R&D focuses on water resource systems and modeling, planning and operations of multi-objective water resource systems, hydropower optimization, decision support and adaptive management for climate change. The Center develops and maintains RiverWare®, software widely used in the U.S. and abroad for planning, operations, hydropower scheduling and water accounting of major river and reservoir systems. Prof. Zagona’s research spans a variety of topics including the water-energy nexus challenge of integrating of wind energy in hydro intensive portions of the grid; application of recent research in hydroclimatology and forecasting to improving operations of rivers and reservoirs; innovative modeling techniques for environmental flows, surface – groundwater interactions and optimizing the value of hydropower generation; and techniques for robust decision making under deep uncertainty. R&D sponsors include the Bureau of Reclamation, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Tennessee Valley Authority, Bonneville Power Administration, National Renewal Energy Lab and Oak Ridge National Lab.


Laser-based measurements from the Crimaldi lab showing interacting plumes of coral egg and sperm surrogates in a turbulent flowfield. The team is studying how structured turbulence enhances the efficacy of the external fertilization strategy employed by many endangered corals.

Environmental flow and transport phenomena

John Crimaldi’s research group uses experimental and numerical approaches to investigate physical-biological interactions in marine and freshwater systems. His research group is focused on understanding the role of fluid physics in promoting stirring, mixing, and reactions in complex environments, and understanding the link between these processes and the functioning of ecosystem dynamics. Their primary area of expertise is in experimental fluid dynamics, where they develop and use sophisticated laser-based instrumentation to make detailed measurements of mass and momentum transport in large-scale laboratory flow facilities. Current research projects funded by the National Science Foundation aim to understand the role of structured stirring on the success of reproductive strategies used by corals and other benthic invertebrates, and the role of siphon flows on the feeding and filtration capabilities of clams and other marine bivalves.

Harihar Rajaram’s research deals with fluid mechanics and transport phenomena in environmental and earth systems, stochastic theories of flow and transport in disordered media, and glaciology and glacier hydrology. His research involves high-performance computation of complex coupled processes, mathematical analysis and experimentation. Prof. Rajaram’s group is involved in a National Science Funded project to explore how the surface of the earth is shaped by climate, organisms, and geology, and how it will respond to changing conditions in the future; and a NASA funded project on predicting ice discharge from outlet glaciers in West Greenland out to 2100. Prof. Rajaram is also a President’s Teaching Scholar at CU. The figure shows a simulation of the development of thermal caves by upwelling water in hydrothermal karst systems, which involves coupling between buoyancy-driven fluid flow, heat transport and multi-component reactive transport.