Climate Change is Focus of New Water Resources Institute Projects

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June 13, 2013

By Marie Zhuikov

The University of Wisconsin Water Resources Institute has announced funding of $55,400 for two projects over the next two years. Both involve strengthening the abilities of community planners to respond to climate change by providing them with new tools and information.

Establishing the Long-Term Range of Variability in Drought Conditions for Southwest Wisconsin

Researchers from the University of Wisconsin-Platteville TREES (Tree-Ring, Earth and Environmental Sciences) Lab ( will take core samples from more than 400 ancient oak trees in southwestern Wisconsin and analyze them for signs of long-term rainfall and climate conditions to lay the foundation for similar efforts across the state. In this first comprehensive tree coring study in southwestern Wisconsin, researchers Evan Larson and Christopher Underwood will enhance the data currently available to calibrate climate change models by providing a long-term perspective at multiple spatial scales. In contrast to instrumental records, using tree-ring data will provide a more extensive temporal perspective to help community planners understand a broader range of climate variability, including the frequency of extreme events. The data will provide context for climate change predictions that incorporate uncertainty into water resources management in a changing world. The core sampling is akin to taking a blood sample in a human and does not cause lasting damage to the trees.

Impacts of Climatic and Land Use Changes on Streamflow and Water Quality in the Milwaukee River Basin

The second project involves the first comprehensive assessment of how climate and urban growth are likely to alter water flow and water quality in the Milwaukee River Basin. Researchers Woonsup Choi and Changshan Wu from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee will use a computer model to generate land use scenarios, evaluate global climate models and project hydrological changes based on various climate and land use scenarios. The results will help the scientific community, decision-makers and the general public in understanding how climate and land use impacts hydrology in one of the most urbanized basins in Wisconsin.