Climate Research and Development Program

Drought and Floods

Droughts and floods are extreme events in the water cycle that can have catastrophic and lasting impacts on ecosystems and society. The Climate R&D Program integrates data from instrumental and geologic data to understand the impact of these events and to advance our capability to anticipate and mitigate their impacts in the near and distant future.

Filter Total Items: 18
Date published: December 2, 2020
Status: Active

Understanding long-term drivers of vegetation change and stability in the Southern Rocky Mountains with paleoecological data and ecological models

Drought and fire are powerful disturbance agents that can trigger rapid and lasting changes in the forests of western North America. Over the last decade, increases in fire size and severity coincided with warming, drought, and earlier snowmelt, factors that projected climatic changes are likely to exacerbate. However, recent observations are brief relative to the lifespans of trees and...

Date published: November 10, 2020
Status: Active

Quaternary Hydroclimate Records of Spring Ecosystems

Desert springs and wetlands are among the most biologically productive, diverse, and fragile ecosystems on Earth. They are home to thousands of rare, endemic, and endangered plants and animals and reflect the availability and health of emergent groundwater. Despite the ecological importance of these wetlands, our knowledge of how they might respond to predicted future climate change is limited...

Date published: March 25, 2020
Status: Active

Past Perspectives of Water in the West

In the intermountain west, seasonal precipitation extremes, combined with population growth, are creating new challenges for the management of water resources, ecosystems, and geologic hazards. This research contributes a comprehensive long-term context for a deeper understanding of past hydrologic variability, including the magnitude and frequency of drought and flood extremes and ecosystem...

Date published: February 26, 2020
Status: Active

Impacts of coastal and watershed changes on upper estuaries: causes and implications of wetland ecosystem transitions along the US Atlantic and Gulf Coasts

Estuaries and their surrounding wetlands are coastal transition zones where freshwater rivers meet tidal seawater.  As sea levels rise, tidal forces move saltier water farther upstream, extending into freshwater wetland areas. Human changes to the surrounding landscape may amplify the effects of this tidal extension, impacting the resiliency and function of the upper estuarine wetlands. One...

Contacts: Ken Krauss, Ph.D., Gregory Noe, Camille LaFosse Stagg, Ph.D., Hongqing Wang, Ph.D., Eric J Ward, Ph.D., Jamie A. Duberstein, William H. Conner, Zhaohua Dai, Thomas L. O'Halloran
Date published: October 23, 2019
Status: Active

Drivers and Impacts of North Pacific Climate Variability

Climate model forecasts indicate an increase in extreme hydrologic events, including floods and droughts, for California and the western U.S. in the future. To better understand what the consequences of this future change in climate may be, USGS scientists are studying the frequency, magnitude, and impacts of past hydroclimate variability and extremes in the region. This project produces well-...

Date published: April 22, 2019
Status: Active

Actual evapotranspiration, flash droughts, water deficits, reduced vegetative growth, and wildfires: the effects of seasonally water-limited conditions in a changing climate

The Southeastern U.S. experiences recurring hydrologic droughts, which can reduce water availability for human consumption and ecosystem services, leading to plant stress and reduced plant growth. This project examines relationships between drought and the water cycle in the Southeast with data from the Panola Mountain Research Watershed (PMRW) near Atlanta, Georgia and other Southeastern...

Date published: April 17, 2019
Status: Active

Water Quality Across Regional Stream Networks: The Influence of Land Cover and Land Use, Climate, and Biogeochemical Processing on Spatiotemporal Variance

Land cover and land use (LC/LU), climate, and biogeochemical processing are significant drivers of water quality in streams and rivers over broad scales of space and time. As LC/LU and climate continue to change we can expect changes in water quality. This project seeks to understand the drivers of spatial and temporal variability in water quality across scales using new and existing data to...

Date published: April 17, 2019
Status: Active

Mountains to sea – fluvial transport of carbon and nutrients and effects on ecosystems and people

Stream transport (lateral transfer) of carbon remains a poorly understood flux within the global carbon budget.  This research addresses the need to refine our knowledge of both provenance and transformations of Dissolved Organic Matter (DOM) as it moves from mountains to sea.  Interpreting shifts in carbon quality with increasing stream order, and how these patterns change with variation in...

Date published: April 15, 2019
Status: Active

Effects of disturbance and drought on the forests and hydrology of the Southern Rocky Mountains

Climate-related forest disturbances, particularly drought-induced tree mortality and large, high-severity fires from increasingly warm and dry conditions, are altering forest ecosystems and the ecosystem services society depends on (e.g., water supplies).  Our research combines long-term place-based ecological data, diverse methods (e.g., paleo, remote-sensing), and networking approaches to...

Date published: April 13, 2019
Status: Active

Forest health and drought response

Forests provide society with economically important and often irreplaceable goods and services, such as wood products, carbon sequestration, clean water, biodiversity, and recreational opportunities.  Yet hotter droughts (droughts in which unusually high temperatures exacerbate the effects of low precipitation) are projected to increase in frequency and intensity in coming decades, potentially...

Date published: March 25, 2019
Status: Active

Reconstructing Ocean Circulation & Hydroclimate in the Subtropical Atlantic

Changes in rainfall patterns as a result of anthropogenic climate change are already having large ecological and socioeconomic impacts across the globe. Increases in flood damage, wildfire damage, and agricultural losses can all be attributed to anomalous rainfall events and prolonged droughts across the United States in recent years. Additionally, Atlantic Ocean circulation, which has a large...

Date published: February 25, 2019
Status: Active

Drylands are highly vulnerable to climate and land use changes: what ecosystem changes are in store?

Improper land use during drought has been a major driver of land degradation in drylands globally, especially in the western U.S.  Increasing aridity in western U.S. drylands under future climates will exacerbate risks associated with drought and land use decisions. This project provides critical observational, experimental, and modelling evidence to support our DOI partners with decision...