Corps Issues Ohio Basin Climate Change Study

The Huntington Engineer District in cooperation with the Pittsburgh, Louisville and Nashville districts, and the Great Lakes and Ohio River Division, prepared an adaptation pilot study to address the effects of climate change within the Ohio River Basin through a collaborative effort with member agencies and organizations of the Ohio River Basin Alliance. The report was finalized in May and was recently made available at www.corpsclimate.us/20170630news.cfm.

According to the Corps, the Ohio River Basin Climate Change Pilot Report investigated potential climate change impacts to basin infrastructure. Infrastructure components include federal facilities operated for reduction of flood damages, navigation, local protection, water supply and hydroelectric power production. The study also investigated the potential impacts on terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems that are influenced by operation of these infrastructure components.

The study suggested that despite the region’s climate already undergoing observable changes, larger and more rapid changes in temperature, precipitation and stream flows will not progress quickly until about 2040. The study noted that precipitation changes are expected to increase stream flows in the eastern part of the basin, which includes Pittsburgh, by up to 50 percent, and decrease those in the west by a similar amount.

As noted in the report, the study provides downscaled climate modeling information for the entire basin with forecasts of future precipitation and temperature changes, as well as forecasts of future streamflow at numerous gaging points throughout the basin.

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These forecasts, according to the report, are presented through three 30-year time periods between 2011 and 2099. Strategies to overcome potential impacts of climate change on the river basin are proposed in the study. Among these strategies is a proposal that the current policies guiding the operation of basin water resources infrastructure be reviewed in light of the challenges that a new hydrologic regimen may present.

The report concludes with a series of lessons learned from the research and study processes, which the Corps said will hopefully assist others during future investigations of this issue.