Vulnerability of hydropower production in Alaska to climate variability and change: best practices for communication and application of climate science

Many operators of existing hydropower facilities in the state of Alaska manage their water resources with little or no information about water stored in the snowpack or streamflows feeding the reservoirs. They also lack the capacity for making use of seasonal forecasts of temperature and precipitation that may be linked to known modes of climate variability (i.e. El Nino-Southern Oscillation and the Pacific Decadal Oscillation).

Scientifically credible longer-term projections of climate change are also currently underutilized in planning, managing and licensing hydropower facilities.

As several municipalities depending on these facilities face relicensing and others consider new license applications with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, it is increasingly important that the people and agencies who design, finance, license and manage these facilities grow their capacity to make use of near real-time environmental monitoring, make use of seasonal forecasts, and consider the projected impacts of long-term climate change.

The goals of this project were to:

  • identify data and analyses needed for climate vulnerability assessment on hydropower facilities in Alaska
  • synthesize the state of science to-date with interdisciplinary focus on hydrology, climate variability, and climate impacts in the Susitna basin
  • conduct a gap analysis identifying critical research needed, if any, for complete vulnerability assessment.