NOAA-GOES water vapor image of moisture flow into western North America
The purpose of this project is to investigate records of past climatic and hydrologic variability in western North America. This will provide a context to understand recent hydroclimatic extremes and range of variability. It will allow better understanding of past climate processes in space and time and help to identify the influence of past climate-forcing mechanisms on natural climate variability. Current focus is on the development of a network of records in the Rocky Mountains and Alaska with decade-to-century resolution and sensitivity to hydroclimate, including seasonal precipitation distribution, evapotranspiration and net moisture balance. Several proxy methods are used to derive the data, with primary emphasis on isotope geochemistry, including both modern observations and calibration studies. Comparisons with other terrestrial and marine climate proxy records are used to investigate atmosphere-ocean dynamics that are known to significantly influence western U.S. hydroclimate such as the El Niņo Southern Oscillation (ENSO), the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO).
Why is this research important?
Understanding past climate, landscapes, and ecosystems equips us to better understand changes in the earth system taking place today. This project specifically contributes to the understanding of current and future water availability in western North America.