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  1. null (Ed.)
    Growing demand for water resources coupled with climate-driven water scarcity and variability present critical challenges to agriculture in the Western US. Despite extensive resources allocated to downscaling climate projections and advances in understanding past, current, and future climatic conditions, climate information is underutilized in decisions made by agricultural producers. Climate information providers need to understand why this information is underutilized and what would better meet the needs of producers. To better understand how agricultural producers perceive and utilize climate information, we conducted five focus groups with farmers and ranchers across Montana. Focus groups revealed that there are fundamental scalar issues (spatial and temporal) that make climate information challenging for producers to use. While climate information is typically produced at regional, national, or global spatial scales and at a seasonal and mid- to end-of-century temporal scales, producers indicated that decision-making takes place at multiple intermediate and small temporal and spatial scales. In addition, producers described other drivers of decision-making that have little to do with climate information itself, but rather aspects of source credibility, past experience, trust in information, and the politics of climate change. Through engaging directly with end-users, climate information providers can better understand the spatial and temporal scalesmore »that align with different types of agricultural producers and decisions, as well as the limitations of information provision given the complexity of the decision context. Increased engagement between climate information providers and end-users can also address the important tradeoffs that exist between scale and uncertainty.« less
  2. High frequency and spatially explicit irrigated land maps are important for understanding the patterns and impacts of consumptive water use by agriculture. We built annual, 30 m resolution irrigation maps using Google Earth Engine for the years 1986–2018 for 11 western states within the conterminous U.S. Our map classifies lands into four classes: irrigated agriculture, dryland agriculture, uncultivated land, and wetlands. We built an extensive geospatial database of land cover from each class, including over 50,000 human-verified irrigated fields, 38,000 dryland fields, and over 500,000 km 2 of uncultivated lands. We used 60,000 point samples from 28 years to extract Landsat satellite imagery, as well as climate, meteorology, and terrain data to train a Random Forest classifier. Using a spatially independent validation dataset of 40,000 points, we found our classifier has an overall binary classification (irrigated vs. unirrigated) accuracy of 97.8%, and a four-class overall accuracy of 90.8%. We compared our results to Census of Agriculture irrigation estimates over the seven years of available data and found good overall agreement between the 2832 county-level estimates (r 2 = 0.90), and high agreement when estimates are aggregated to the state level (r 2 = 0.94). We analyzed trends over the 33-yearmore »study period, finding an increase of 15% (15,000 km 2 ) in irrigated area in our study region. We found notable decreases in irrigated area in developing urban areas and in the southern Central Valley of California and increases in the plains of eastern Colorado, the Columbia River Basin, the Snake River Plain, and northern California.« less
  3. Abstract The 2017 flash drought arrived without early warning and devastated the U.S. northern Great Plains region comprising Montana, North Dakota, and South Dakota and the adjacent Canadian Prairies. The drought led to agricultural production losses exceeding $2.6 billion in the United States, widespread wildfires, poor air quality, damaged ecosystems, and degraded mental health. These effects motivated a multiagency collaboration among academic, tribal, state, and federal partners to evaluate drought early warning systems, coordination efforts, communication, and management practices with the goal of improving resilience and response to future droughts. This essay provides an overview on the causes, predictability, and historical context of the drought, the impacts of the drought, opportunities for drought early warning, and an inventory of lessons learned. Key lessons learned include the following: 1) building partnerships during nondrought periods helps ensure that proper relationships are in place for a coordinated and effective drought response; 2) drought information providers must improve their understanding of the annual decision cycles of all relevant sectors, including, and beyond, direct impacts in agricultural sectors; and 3) ongoing monitoring of environmental conditions is vital to drought early warning, given that seasonal forecasts lack skill over the northern Great Plains.
  4. Abstract Patterns of energy and available moisture can vary over small (<1 km) distances in mountainous terrain. Information on fuel and soil moisture conditions that resolves this variation could help to inform fire and drought management decisions. Here, we describe the development of TOPOFIRE, a web-based mapping system designed to provide finely resolved information on soil water balance, drought, and wildfire danger information for the contiguous United States. We developed 8-arc-second-resolution (~250 meter) daily historical, near real-time, and 4-day forecast radiation, temperature, humidity, and snow water equivalent data and used these grids to calculate a suite of drought and wildfire danger indices. Large differences in shortwave radiation and surface air temperature with aspect contribute to greater snow accumulation and delays in melt timing on north-facing slopes, delaying fuel conditioning on shaded slopes. These datasets will help advance our understanding of the role of topography in wildland fire spread and ecological effects. Integration with national programs like the Wildland Fire Assessment System, the Wildland Fire Decision Support System, and drought early warning systems could support more proactive management of wildland fires and refine the characterization of drought in mountainous regions of the United States.
  5. Daily stream flow and groundwater dynamics in forested subalpine catchments during spring are to a large extent controlled by hydrological processes that respond to the day-night energy cycle. Diurnal snowmelt and transpiration events combine to induce pressure variations in the soil water storage that are propagated to the stream. In headwater catchments these pressure variations can account for a significant amount of the total pressure in the system and control the magnitude, duration, and timing of stream inflow pulses at daily scales, especially in low flow systems. Changes in the radiative balance at the top of the snowpack can alter the diurnal hydrologic dynamics of the hillslope-stream system with potential ecological and management consequences.

    We present a detailed hourly dataset of atmospheric, hillslope, and streamflow measurements collected during one melt season from a semi-alpine headwater catchment in western Montana, US. We use this dataset to investigate the timing, pattern, and linkages among snowmelt-dominated hydrologic processes and assess the role of the snowpack, transpiration, and hillslopes in mediating daily movements of water from the top of the snowpack to local stream systems. We found that the amount of snowpack cold content accumulated during the night, which must be overcome everymore »morning before snowmelt resumes, delayed water recharge inputs by up to 3 hours early in the melt season. These delays were further exacerbated by multi-day storms (cold fronts), which resulted in significant depletions in the soil and stream storages. We also found that both diurnal snowmelt and transpiration signals are present in the diurnal soil and stream storage fluctuations, although the individual contributions of these processes is difficult to discern. Our analysis showed that the hydrologic response of the snow-hillslope-stream system is highly sensitive to atmospheric drivers at hourly scales, and that variations in atmospheric energy inputs or other stresses are quickly transmitted and alter the intensity, duration and timing of snowmelt pulses and soil water extractions by vegetation, which ultimately drive variations in soil and stream water pressures.« less
  6. Abstract. During spring, daily stream flow and groundwater dynamics in forested subalpine catchmentsare to a large extent controlled by hydrological processes thatrespond to the day–night energy cycle. Diurnal snowmelt and transpirationevents combine to induce pressure variations in the soil water storage thatare propagated to the stream. In headwater catchments these pressurevariations can account for a significant amount of the total pressure in thesystem and control the magnitude, duration, and timing of stream inflowpulses at daily scales, especially in low-flow systems. Changes in theradiative balance at the top of the snowpack can alter the diurnal hydrologicdynamics of the hillslope–stream system, with potential ecological andmanagement consequences.

    We present a detailed hourly dataset of atmospheric, hillslope, andstreamflow measurements collected during one melt season from a semi-alpineheadwater catchment in western Montana, US. We use this dataset toinvestigate the timing, pattern, and linkages among snowmelt-dominatedhydrologic processes and assess the role of the snowpack, transpiration, andhillslopes in mediating daily movements of water from the top of the snowpackto local stream systems. We found that the amount of snowpack cold contentaccumulated during the night, which must be overcome every morning beforesnowmelt resumes, delayed water recharge inputs by up to 3h early in themelt season. These delaysmore »were further exacerbated by multi-day storms (coldfronts), which resulted in significant depletions in the soil and streamstorages. We also found that both diurnal snowmelt and transpiration signalsare present in the diurnal soil and stream storage fluctuations, although theindividual contributions of these processes are difficult to discern. Ouranalysis showed that the hydrologic response of the snow–hillslope–streamsystem is highly sensitive to atmospheric drivers at hourly scales and thatvariations in atmospheric energy inputs or other stresses are quicklytransmitted and alter the intensity, duration, and timing of snowmelt pulsesand soil water extractions by vegetation, which ultimately drive variationsin soil and stream water pressures.

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