Hydroclimatology Lab

Our program surveys regional water basins to determine anthropogenic pressures on surface water systems and the feedbacks between these natural and human-made systems. With this program we aim to promote awareness of integrated water resources management in the highly vulnerable Central America region. In addition, through the deployment of complex datasets of high-spatial resolution we are establishing a pilot program surveying and modeling water and climate change processes in Central America. Our modeling and water programs will provide important knowledge for ecological, agricultural, and hydrological projections for the Central America region to guide our LCT and policy programs. With this program, we seek to bridge the gap between highly technical climate data and public awareness of this information by generating accessible, interactive tools to support policy and education sectors as well as social and citizen groups in the region.

info@region360.org

An integrated approach to water, climate change, and sustainable development.

The hydrosphere

Water is an integral part of life and is essential to any anthropogenic system. Despite its importance, this resource is often taken for granted, especially in areas where it is widely available. The Northern Triangle of Central America (Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador), for example, has large gaps in hydrological knowledge, not only due to the lack of attention from policy and academic sectors but also by also because other socioeconomic concerns take priority in the development agenda. Recent and ever-recurring natural disasters such as floods, droughts, and most recently the 2020 global Covid-19 pandemic have highlighted the fact that water management is particularly important, not only for domestic use, but also to keep the energy, food, health and industry sectors functional.
Globally, the distribution of water resources is highly related to climate dynamics, which in turn are dominated by large scale regional to global dynamics; from a water resources perspective, three main questions dominate the hydrological sciences field at global and local scales:

1. What is the current state of water resources?
2. What are the interactions among anthropogenic sectors and water?
3. How is the water cycle projected to change in the future?

Integrated Water Resources Analysis: comprehensive assessment of the hydrological cycle incorporating natural and anthropogenic perspectives

The question above also guide our work, which seeks to breach the gap between scientific and academic knowledge and actionable policy solutions and tools. To that end, the main objective of the Hydroclimatology Lab at Region360 is to improve the understanding of the interactions and intersections of the natural and anthropogenic systems within the hydrological cycle. We do this by using state-of-the-art models, methodological tools, and datasets in order to provide tools and information for stakeholders and decisionmakers. Currently our work focuses in the Northern Triangle in Central America, where we are developing the models and tools that we will seek to make adaptable and available for the rest of Latin America.

Climatology Lab Team

Rodrigo Fernandez, PhD, Director for Water and Climate Project

Rodrigo holds a BSc in Civil Engineering from the Universidad del Valle in Guatemala and MSc and PhD degrees in Water Related Disaster Management from the National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies in Tokyo, Japan. Rodrigo has extensive experience conducting research and evaluating the changes on water resources imposed by climate variability and change. Other research interests include physical and water use dependencies of cities on mountainous headwaters, virtual water trades, and modeling social processes on the water cycle. Previously Rodrigo worked as a climate scientist for West Virginia University; as Statistical Software Developer for Living Image (Tsukuba, Japan); and as Research Technician in the National Disaster Prevention Agency in Guatemala. At Region360 Rodrigo conducts research on water related issues in Central America and serves as advisor to the research team and as advisor to EFI’s Research Fellows.

Location: Washington, DC.

1. State of water resources

Although the general and atmospheric processes that drive the natural distribution of water resources across the Central America Northern Triangle are widely understood, there are several technological shortcomings that prevent these countries from accurate forecasts at various time scales. Understanding the processes that determine the travel times and amount of water as it enters the land surface as rainfall, stores in lakes and underground, and travels through rivers or as subsurface flow is paramount to plan for energy production, irrigation calendars and domestic consumption. This understanding of hydrological processes is also important in order to forecast floods and droughts. To improve the understanding of the hydrological cycle in Centra America and beyond in Latin America, Region360 will deploy land surface and hydrological models with available historic data from government institutions coupled with remote sensing and global model products to sharpen the hydrological understanding of the region. .

2. Hydro-anthropogenic networks

Although the general and atmospheric processes that drive the natural distribution of water resources across the Central America Northern Triangle are widely understood, there are several technological shortcomings that prevent these countries from accurate forecasts at various time scales. Understanding the processes that determine the travel times and amount of water as it enters the land surface as rainfall, stores in lakes and underground, and travels through rivers or as subsurface flow is paramount to plan for energy production, irrigation calendars and domestic consumption. This understanding of hydrological processes is also important in order to forecast floods and droughts. To improve the understanding of the hydrological cycle in Centra America and beyond in Latin America, Region360 will deploy land surface and hydrological models with available historic data from government institutions coupled with remote sensing and global model products to sharpen the hydrological understanding of the region. .

3. Climate change and the future of the water sector

For much of the 20th century, the hydrological sciences focused on determining historical and statistical characteristics of hydrological variables, such as rainfall and streamflow, to determine management and infrastructure designs. However, advancements on computer power have given way to better physical representations of atmospheric and land processes which have been used to determine that the water system is in fact non-stationary due to climate variability, and although historic information provides an indispensable portion of understanding, methods to project and forecast hydrological variables are also needed. Moreover, recognized climate change due to greenhouse gas (GHGs) emissions from industry and other anthropogenic sectors provides additional uncertainty to future understanding of climatology and hydrology. General Circulation Models (GCMs), also known as Global Climate Models, have been developed and improved to represent global climate dynamics and to create projections into the future simulating various levels of GHGs. The Coupled Model Intercomparisson Project (CMIP) constantly compiles the 21st century projections by leading modelling groups and makes them available to the public. These global projections come with limitations, namely the coarse spatial resolution and intrinsic statistical biases. Nevertheless, they provide climate variables that can be used as input to hydrological models (component 1) to further generate future hydrological projections.

At Region360 we will use state of the art statistical methods to downscale and bias-correct GCM projections, input them to hydrological models (component 1), and generate future states of hydrology. Moreover, using component 2 we will be able to identify different projected impacts to anthropogenic systems in the Central American Northern Triangle with the goal of informing policy directions.

Region360 is a project of the Environic Foundation International (EFI) in Washington, DC. EFI enjoys special consultative status with UN’s ECOSOC and is a member of the UN’s Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN).