CH To Play Key Role in Major New CFREF Water Initiative

Professor John Pomeroy will serve as the Associate Program Director of the largest ever water research initiative, led by the U. of S. and announced this week.

Global Water Futures: Solutions to Water Threats in an Era of Global Change has been provided with major funding of $77.8 million over seven years by the Canada First Research Excellence Fund (CFREF).

The program aims to develop new approaches to forecasting and mitigating water-related threats, such as floods, droughts and degraded water quality, within the context of changing climatic conditions, expanding economies and population growth. It will involve researchers from an impressive range of universities, government agencies, communities and industries around the world, as illustrated by the image below.


Professor Pomeroy writes –

Global Water Futures (GWF) is a newly announced $143 million research programme funded by the Canada First Research Excellence Fund, several universities and industry. GWF’s overarching goal is to deliver risk management solutions—informed by leading-edge water science and supported by innovative decision-making tools—to manage water futures in Canada and other cold regions where global warming is changing landscapes, ecosystems, and the water environment. End-user needs will be our beacon and will drive strategy and shape our science as we focus on three main goals:

1) Deliver new capability for providing disaster warning to governments, communities and the public, including Canada’s first national flood forecasting and seasonal flow forecasting systems, new drought warning capability, and water quality models and monitoring that warn of hazards to health and drinking water supply;

2) Diagnose and predict water futures to deliver improved scenario forecasting of changing climate, landscape and water for the future, with information outputs tailored to the needs of users. This will enable us, for example, to assess risks to human health from changing flood, drought and water quality; and

3) Develop new models, tools and approaches to manage water-related risks to multiple sectors, integrating natural sciences, engineering, social and health sciences to deliver transformative decision-making tools for evidence-based responses to the world’s changing cold regions. New models will define changing risk from floods and drought, and allow end-users to plan sustainable infrastructure investment to manage future risk.

Why do we need GWF?  Canada and the world have record shrinking glaciers, melting permafrost, reduced snow cover, increased floods and droughts, and degraded water quality at the same time as our demands on water are increasing.  With the GWF programme, we can address these problems. Supported by new sensors, drones, nanosatellites, instrumented watersheds, computer models and unprecedented data, we will better understand and forecast water disasters, supply and quality. Through better prediction, we will reduce the damages from extreme weather events, like floods, droughts and wildfires. And we will unravel the social, health, environmental, political and economic implications of changes to our water.

There are three main components to the outcomes from GWF over the next seven years.

1) Improved disaster warning. Currently, we lack the scientific knowledge, monitoring and modeling technologies, and national forecasting capacity to predict the risk and severity of potentially catastrophic events in Canada. These knowledge gaps and technology barriers have resulted in significant loss of life and property in recent years.  GWF will create Canada’s first national water disaster warning system by creating robust forecasting tools capable of warning stakeholders of impending floods, seasonal water flows, droughts and water quality. Apps, underpinned by our models created in other pillars, will be developed to deliver these systems in a user-friendly manner. These solutions will save lives and infrastructure and provide operational efficiencies to stakeholders and industries such as water managers and hydropower companies.

2) Predicting water futures. The world lacks water data on a scale to make informed decisions, and we cannot forecast future climate impacts without better models to assess changes in our human/natural land and water systems. These limitations create risks for water supplies, water quality and sustainability. Though a comprehensive research program that integrates multiple disciplines, GWF will establish a more holistic understanding of our changing climate, land, water and ecosystems. This expansive knowledge will create more robust mathematical models that will increase accuracy of our future predictions of water quantity and quality, as well as landscape and ecosystem change for all major Canadian river basins, allowing for scenario modeling of land and water futures. Apps and software that incorporate these models will be developed with the end user in mind for integration into daily decision-making.

3) Adapting to change and managing risk. Nationally and globally, we lack the governance mechanisms, management strategies, and policy tools needed to reduce the risk of water threats, design adaptive strategies to cope with uncertainty, and take advantage of economic opportunities that arise as change unfolds. GWF will provide decision-makers in government and across industries and agriculture the necessary risk-management models tools to make evidence-based decisions that result in optimal socioeconomic outcomes. These scenario-based tools will be informed by our transdisciplinary research program and will be customized by sector. For example, GWF will provide government with evidence and guidance on adaptive governance; Indigenous communities with decision-making tools to adapt to changing water quality; urban communities with evidence to adapt and respond to flood risk; agriculture with tailored weather inputs for precision farming and tools for beneficial management practices; industry with guidance on risks and sustainability, and tools to better assess and manage water and environmental risks and liabilities.

Canada has long been known as the water country, and with GWF we will be known as the water solutions country.

The following articles have been published about the new program:

Awards to CH PhD Candidates

Two CH PhD candidates have recently won prestigious awards for their work.

Nik Aksamit, who is studying alpine boundary layer turbulence and snow transport, was selected as the recipient of the 2016 Robert Falside Stoddart Memorial Scholarship by the College of Graduate Studies and Research at the University of Saskatchewan.

Phillip Harder, investigating the impact of agricultural management on prairie snowmelt hydrology, won the Bert Tanner Award for outstanding student presentation (sponsored by Campbell Scientific Canada), awarded by the Canadian Society of Agricultural and Forest Meteorology at a meeting of the American Meteorological Society in Salt Lake City (20-24 June, 2016).

Both students are supervised by CH director Professor John Pomeroy.


Pomeroy to lecture on climate change and mountain water security at UEA

CH director Professor John Pomeroy has been invited to present a seminar to the School of International Development, School of Environmental Sciences and the Water Security Programme at the University of East Anglia (Norwich, England) on Mountains, Climate Change and Water Security.

The Seminar will take place on Thursday 23 June at 1245 pm in Arts 2.02 at UEA Norwich. The seminar will put Canadian and international research on climate change impacts on mountain water resources in the context of global water futures.

More information is available in PDF form.

CH PhD Candidate Selected to Participate in DCMIP Workshop at NCAR

Kabir Rasouli, who is working towards his PhD at CH under the supervision of Prof. John Pomeroy, has been selected to participate in the 2016 DCMIP Workshop and Summer School at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) scheduled June 6th – 17th.

From the DCMIP website –

Over the past fifty years, Earth-system models have given us incredible insight into the influence of the changing climate on regional and global scales. A major component of these models is the atmospheric dynamical core, which is responsible for solving the equations of fluid motion within the atmosphere. Substantial investments are now being made in the development of new dynamical cores at modeling centers around the world, driven by the need for more accurate and efficient models, the call for more practicable climate data at the fine scales, and the rapid growth of supercomputing architectures. More attention has been directed at inaccuracies and biases that arise due to the relatively crude division between physical parameterizations and dynamics. To better understand these systems, the Dynamical Core Model Intercomparison Project (DCMIP) aims to intercompare cutting-edge dynamical cores and provide a forum to exchange ideas and advance education on dynamical core development.

DCMIP will fund approximately 35 students and postdoctoral participants. Lectures from experts in the field on select topics associated with atmospheric model theory, design and development. Hands-on sessions run by model leads where students will execute and explore the newest generation atmospheric models. Students will receive hands-on experience with these dynamical cores in small groups to simulate a baroclinic instability, tropical cyclone and supercell storm.

CH Flood and Climate Change Research Profiled by Calgary Herald

The Calgary Herald of 18th June 2016 included an extended article covering convergent strands of CH research relating to climate-change, watershed processes and the 2013 Alberta floods.

The story described in detail how CH’s studies on topics as diverse as major declines in glacier ice in the high Rockies, the relative importances of forest-cover and soil properties in modulating suface runoff, changes in prairie rainstorm patterns and the increasing occurrence of previously unusual (and in some cases unprecedented) weather events have all helped to improve understanding of how flood events are likely to develop under changing climatic conditions.

The article is available for online viewing here, or as an archived PDF.

Rain on Snow Research Profiled in Rocky Mountain Outlook

Canmore’s Rocky Mountain Outlook has published an article describing interesting research by CH PhD candidate Nic Leroux and director Dr John Pomeroy. They have been exploring how rain which falls on late-season snowpack finds its way to the underlying surface, and their experiments have shown how this happens primarily along preferential flow paths or ‘flow fingers’. This holds great promise for improving understanding of the processes involved in rain-on-snow events, which have been occurring more frequently in the Alberta Rockies over recent years, and played a major role in the floods of 2013.

The article is available for online viewing here.

CH Comments on Role of Climate Change in Increasing Wildfire Risks

Following the major destruction wrought by the Fort McMurray wildfire at the beginning of May, and public interest in the factors which may have contributed to its ferocity, CH Director and Canada Research Chair in Water Resources and Climate Change Professor John Pomeroy was asked by Global News for his thoughts on this topic.

Dr Pomeroy highlighted research showing that conditions leading to low soil moisture and air humidity – such as those experienced throughout much of central and western Canada this spring following an extremely mild, dry winter – lead to an increased likelihood of major wildfires occurring. Many of the models developed to predict future fire behaviour under changing climatic conditions show such risks intensifying dramatically over future decades, particularly in the northern forests.

The interview is available for online viewing here.


PhD Student Awarded APEGS Grant

CH student Holly Anand, who is working towards her PhD on the topic of ‘Changing Prairie Hydrology’ under the supervision of Professors John Pomeroy and Howard Wheater, has been awarded a Member Grant of $7500  by the Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of Saskatchewan (APEGS).

The award was made on the basis of Holly’s essay describing her accomplishments in the practice of engineering, service to the profession, reasons for pursuing grad studies and community involvement, supported by references from Professors John Pomeroy and Terry Fonstad. She will receive the award at the APEGS banquet in Saskatoon on the 7th of May.


CH Contributes Views on Possible Summer Drought Risks

CH’s Professor John Pomeroy has been interviewed by several Saskatoon media channels on the topic of likely water resources scenarios in the prairies this summer, following a warm, dry winter throughout much of the region.

The signs at this stage (mid April) are that western areas may be at particular risk of encountering drought-like conditions, with resultant impacts on agriculture and wildfire risks.

Prof. Pomeroy commented that “Large evacuations due to forest fire are occurring almost every year in western Canada now, when they used to be much rarer occurrences”.

  • CTV News Saskatoon
  • ‘Desert-dry’ Saskatchewan primed for wildfires
    Saskatoon StarPhoenix, 20th April 2016
    Original ArticleArchived PDF
  • Red Cross gears up for 2016 Sask. forest fire season
    Global News Saskatoon, 20th April 2016
    Original Article