First Advisor

Hamid Moradkhani

Date of Publication

Summer 5-29-2013

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (M.S.) in Civil & Environmental Engineering


Civil and Environmental Engineering




Climatic changes -- Columbia River Watershed -- Mathematical models, Precipitation forecasting -- Columbia River Watershed -- Simulation methods -- 21st century, Precipitation (Meteorology) -- Columbia River Watershed -- History -- 20th century



Physical Description

1 online resource (viii, 56 pages)


Hydro-climate extreme analysis helps understanding the process of spatio-temporal variation of extreme events due to climate change, and it is an important aspect in designing hydrological structures, forecasting floods and an effective decision making in the field of water resources design and management. The study evaluates extreme precipitation events over the Columbia River Basin (CRB), the fourth largest basin in the U.S., by simulating four CMIP5 global climate models (GCMs) for the historical period (1970-1999) and future period (2041-2070) under RCP85 GHG scenario.

We estimated the intensity of extreme and average precipitation for both winter (DJF) and summer (JJA) seasons by using the GEV distribution and multi-model ensemble average over the domain of the Columbia River Basin. The four CMIP5 models performed very well at simulating precipitation extremes in the winter season. The CMIP5 climate models showed heterogeneous spatial pattern of summer extreme precipitation over the CRB for the future period. It was noticed that multi-model ensemble mean outperformed compared to the individual performance of climate models for both seasons.

We have found that the multi-model ensemble shows a consistent and significant increase in the extreme precipitation events in the west of the Cascades Range, Coastal Ranges of Oregon and Washington State, the Canadian portion of the basin and over the Rocky Mountains. However, the mean precipitation is projected to decrease in both winter and summer seasons in the future period.

The Columbia River is dominated by the glacial snowmelt, so the increase in the intensity of extreme precipitation and decrease in mean precipitation in the future period, as simulated by four CMIP5 models, is expected to aggravate the earlier snowmelt and contribute to the flooding in the low lying areas especially in the west of the Cascades Range. In addition, the climate change shift could have serious implications on transboundary water issues in between the United States and Canada. Therefore, adaptation strategies should be devised to cope the possible adverse effects of the changing the future climate so that it could have minimal influence on hydrology, agriculture, aquatic species, hydro-power generation, human health and other water related infrastructure.


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