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22-4. Advancing hydroclimate science for water availability

We seek a Mendenhall Postdoctoral Scholar to define and execute a research agenda for understanding the impacts of various climate and weather data on scenario-driven hydrologic modeling applications used for water availability assessments. 

Description of the Research Opportunity

Climate change will result in physical changes to the water cycle that will impact water availability (quantity, quality, and use) through complex interactions and feedbacks between human, ecological, economic, political, and social systems. Understanding water availability in the future, subject to these driving forces, requires an integrated and inclusive approach, which the USGS Water Mission Area (WMA) is pursuing with strategic partners. The USGS and the National Center for Atmospheric Research are collaborating under the auspices of the WMA’s Integrated Water Prediction and Integrated Water Availability and Assessment programs to address key hydroclimate questions and drivers.  

Some of the key questions our work seeks to advance include: 

  • What are the top-level uncertainties in data and models which limit confidence in both historical hydroclimate descriptions and future water availability scenarios and projections?  

  • How do these uncertainties impact key water budget parameters (precipitation, streamflow, soil moisture, inundation, snowpack, evapotranspiration/evaporative demand, groundwater), and what are the main drivers of those uncertainties?   

  • What are the best approaches for minimizing those uncertainties during the construction and use of hydroclimate data for future periods?  

The postdoctoral scholar should, in collaboration with USGS staff and their stakeholders, research and explore the impacts of forecasting scenario definitions, identification of uncertainties in climate and weather data, and describe how those uncertainties cascade through applications involving prediction of water budget components. Knowledge of methods and workflows for quantitatively characterizing and comparing a wide variety of climate data to observations or simulated results, detecting and compensating for biases, and statistical and dynamic downscaling is required. The incumbent’s research should consider the exploration of atmospheric dataset like the USGS -NCAR CONUS404, a high-fidelity historical baseline data set by using state-of-the-art atmospheric and hydrologic models to establish 40-year historical hydroclimate dataset at 4 km, as well as other community-standard or cutting-edge downscaled hydroclimate datasets.     

This work is also being coordinated with other WMA programs as well as other parts of the USGS (e.g., Earth Resources Observation and Science Center) and other agencies (e.g., National Weather Service). The work is well aligned with national priorities for hydroclimate science as expressed by the administration and interagency planning committees such as the U.S. Global Change Research Program and falls under the key Bureau climate topics of 1) water prediction, availability and climate change 2) landscapes, wildfires and climate (Upper Colorado River Basin efforts), and 3) climate science and Interior priorities. 

Interested applicants are strongly encouraged to contact the Research Advisor(s) early in the application process to discuss project ideas. 


Proposed Duty Station(s)

Location negotiable


Areas of PhD

Hydrology, atmospheric sciences, geology, Earth science or related fields (candidates holding a Ph.D. in other disciplines, but with extensive knowledge and skills relevant to the Research Opportunity may be considered) 



Applicants must meet one of the following qualifications:  Research Hydrologist or Research Physical Scientist

(This type of research is performed by those who have backgrounds for the occupations stated above.  However, other titles may be applicable depending on the applicant's background, education, and research proposal. The final classification of the position will be made by the Human Resources specialist.)