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Characterizing future streamflows in Massachusetts using stochastic modeling—A pilot study

March 19, 2024

Communities throughout Massachusetts face the potential effects of climate change, ranging from more extreme rainfall to more pronounced and frequent droughts. Understanding the effects of climate change on hydrology is important to State and community officials to evaluate the potential effects on infrastructure and water systems. To better understand the effects of climate change on hydrology, the U.S. Geological Survey, in partnership with Cornell University and Tufts University, conducted a study in cooperation with the Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs to develop tools for projecting 21st-century climate and hydrologic characteristics in Massachusetts.

A stochastic weather generator was developed to project future climatic characteristics for Massachusetts. The stochastic weather generator estimates daily precipitation, minimum temperature, and maximum temperature for 17 warming scenarios (from 0 to 8 degrees Celsius, in 0.5-degree increments). To project future hydrologic characteristics, the stochastic weather generator output data were input to the Precipitation-Watershed Modeling System deterministic watershed model for the Squannacook River watershed, which is the watershed selected as the pilot study location for investigating future hydrologic characteristics. Hydrologic data output from the deterministic watershed model were then input to a stochastic watershed model developed for this study to correct model errors (model errors are often observed in the output from deterministic models at the high- and low-flow extremes). The output from the stochastic watershed model was then used to characterize hydrology for the 17 warming scenarios. For the Squannacook River watershed, the results project more extreme flood and low streamflows under the warming scenarios.

Output from the tools allows the characterization of future streamflows for the years 2030, 2050, 2070, and 2090, which expands our understanding of 21st-century climatic and hydrologic risk in Massachusetts. These tools could improve Federal, State, and community officials’ ability to mitigate the effects of climate change over the next several decades.

Publication Year 2024
Title Characterizing future streamflows in Massachusetts using stochastic modeling—A pilot study
DOI 10.3133/sir20235134
Authors Scott A. Olson, Ghazal Shabestanipour, Jonathan Lamontagne, Scott Steinschneider
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Series Title Scientific Investigations Report
Series Number 2023-5134
Index ID sir20235134
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization New England Water Science Center