Banner for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Institute for Water Resources site. Graphic: USACE

By Don Hopey
15 May 2017

(Pittsburgh Post-Gazette) – A soon-to-be-released federal report on climate change for the Ohio River basin predicts accelerating temperature increases over the next 80 years, coupled with significant and dramatic precipitation changes in the eastern and western portions of the watershed.

Although the region’s climate is already changing, the data suggest that the bigger and more rapid changes in temperature, precipitation and stream flows won’t speed up until around 2040, according to the draft summary of a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers study of projected impacts to the Ohio River basin, which includes Western Pennsylvania and all or parts of a dozen other states.

Eventually, the region will likely experience increased flooding, altered aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems, and new demands on the operation of reservoirs, dams and other water infrastructure. The changes could also impact water suppliers, hydroelectric generation, power plants and other industries using cooling water, state and local capital improvement projects, even water-based recreation.

“The potential impacts to infrastructure, energy production and both aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems … range from minimal in some sub-basins to dramatic and potentially devastating in others,” the summary states.

The study, which began in 2010, also addresses potential adaptation strategies that could be used for both short and long-term infrastructure planning, policy analysis and operational changes.

“The study was done because we want to be positioned for changing conditions today and into the future,” said Kathleen White, who is an author of the report and leads the Corps’ Institute for Water Resources Climate and Global Change team. “Just like any military operation must be aware of and adapt to changing threats, we must do the same thing.” [more]

Climate report predicts dramatic changes for Ohio River basin

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