First Advisor

Heejun Chang

Term of Graduation

Winter 2008

Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (M.S.) in Geography






Watershed hydrology -- Oregon -- Washington County, Urbanization -- Oregon -- Washington County, Climatic changes, Urban runoff – Pacific Northwest



Physical Description

1 online resource (2, viii, 120 pages)


Climate changes brought on by global warming are expected to have a significant affect on the Pacific Northwest hydrology during the 21st Century. Current research anticipates higher mean annual temperatures and an intensification of the hydrological cycle. This is of particular concern for highly urbanized basins, which are considered more vulnerable to changes in climate. Because the majority of previous studies have addressed the influences of either climate or urban land cover changes on runoff, there is a lack of research investigating the combined effect of these factors. The Rock Creek basin (RCB), located in the Portland, OR, metropolitan area, has been experiencing rapid urban growth throughout the last 30 years, making it an ideal study area for assessing the affect of climate and land cover changes on runoff. Methods for this assessment include using a combination of climate change and land cover change scenarios for 2040 with the semi distributed AVSWAT-X (Arc View Soil and Water Assessment Tool) hydrological model to determine changes in mean runoff depths at the monthly, seasonal, and annual scales. Statistically downscaled climate change results from the ECHAM5 general circulation model (GCM) found that the region would experience an increase of 1.2°C in the average annual temperature and a 6% increase in average annual precipitation between 2030 and 2059. The model results revealed an amplification of runoff from either climate or urbanization. Projected climate change plus low-density, sprawled urban development for 2040 produced the greatest change to mean annual runoff depth (+5.5%), while climate change plus higher-density urban development for 2040 resulted in the smallest change (+5.3%), when compared to the climate and land cover of 2001. The results of this study support the hypothesis that the combination of both climate change and urbanization would amplify the runoff from the RCB during the 21st Century. This has significant implications for water resource managers attempting to implement adaptive water resource policies to future changes resulting from climate and urbanization.


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