Climate Modeling in the Champlain Basin

Researchers at the University of Vermont have put together a series of integrated models to better understand the impacts of climate change on Lake Champlain and the Champlain Basin. The project, titled Research on Adaptation to Climate Change (RACC), is funded by the National Science Foundation and has been on-going for the last four years. Recently the RACC group held a workshop to share the results of their work and solicit input from attendees, including LCC, on paths forward for the next stage of modeling.

The RACC project has built transdisciplinary teams of social and natural scientists to study the Lake Champlain Basin as a coupled human and natural system affected by climate change. Scientists have investigated the relative importance of in-lake processes (e.g. internal loading, ice cover, and hydrodynamics) versus processes outside the lake (e.g. land use change, snow/rain timing, storm intensity, land management) in driving algal blooms. To answer that question they are building three interacting computer models: one of in-lake processes of nutrient dynamics and blue-green algae blooms, one of climate change impacts on the watershed and how those changes affect nutrient delivery to the lake, and one of how government policies and personal decisions affect the delivery of nutrients.

At the workshop, RACC members sought input from a select group of participants on parameters for the policy component of the model. The audience split into groups and each group was asked to prioritize between different management strategies. Each strategy had a political and economic cost, which limited the number of options the groups could utilize. Results will be compiled and used to feed the model. A final product is expected sometime next year, and can help decision makers understand how policies they enact or ignore can affect water quality.