Problem Statement 2015

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California Drought 2015

California is in the midst of a sustained and dangerous drought. Temperatures have been high, precipitation scarce. Looking more broadly, Oregon, Washington, Alaska and western Canada have had record fire seasons in 2015. Temperature readings in Alaska have, at times, seemed more appropriate for Washington, D.C.

In the U.S., California has the largest population of any state. The agricultural productivity is very high. There are unique natural resources. Much of California is dry, and in the best of times, there is competition for water. The drought has amplified the tensions over water. Climate-change models project that the factors that stress water will become larger. The question at hand is whether or not there is adequate credibility and knowledge in the climate-model projections to justify their use in planning and management?

There are two issues we want to consider. The first concerns the uncertainty in climate-change projections. If we want to make knowledge-based decisions, rather than, say, following our intuition, we need to know the uncertainty of our knowledge. Perhaps we need to know “the facts on the ground.” The second issue is stationarity; that is, the concept from statistics that - if one samples a parameter at one time, its mean and standard deviation will be the same as if sampled at another time. We will explore the roles of uncertainty and stationarity in deciding on the usability of climate projections in the planning and management of California water resources.


If you are working on dams on the Tuolumne River in California during the next 50 years, how would describe the uncertainty to planners?