Project II

Characterization of Readiness of the Transportation and Agriculture Sectors to Cope with Interannual to Decadal Droughts in the Mississippi River Basin

Funded by:
NOAA – Climate Program Office – Sectoral Applications Research Program; August 2016 – July 2018

Principal Investigator:
Vikram Mehta, CRCES

Research Associate:
Katherin Mendoza, CRCES

J. Rolf Olsen, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers – Institute for Water Resources
Harvey Hill, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers – Institute for Water Resources

Stakeholder Advisory Team:
Darren Timothy, USDOT (Office of the Secretary of Transportation)
Elizabeth Ossowski, NOAA Affiliate
Kathleen Bogan, NOAA Affiliate
Amy Larson, President, National Waterways Conference
Randy Richardson, Executive Director, Port of Memphis
Sean Duffy, Executive Director, Big River Coalition
Matt Chang, Economist, USDA – AMS
Mark Brusberg, Deputy Chief Meteorologist, USDA Office of the Chief Economist
Nick Marathon, Economist, USDA, Transportation and Marketing Division, Agricultural Marketing Service
Kevin Knight, Economist, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) Institute for Water Resources (IWR)
Ken Lichtman, Executive Assistant, Inland Waterways Users Board, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) Institute for Water Resources (IWR)
Thomas Verna, Navigation Expert, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) Institute for Water Resources (IWR)
Jantina Wennerstrom, Project Coordinator, Soy Transportation Coalition
Jim Bauman, Director of Market Development, National Corn Growers Association
C. Wellenkamp, Mississippi Rivers and Towns Initiative
Dru Buntin, Upper Mississippi River Basin Association
Dave Hokanson, Upper Mississippi River Basin Association
Kristen Mickelsen, Upper Mississippi River Basin Association
Joel Yelverton, Executive Director, Mississippi Railroad Association

Proposal Summary

We propose to assess the readiness of transportation and agriculture sectors in the Mississippi River Basin (MsRB) to cope with interannual to decadal droughts. In MsRB, water-borne transportation on the Mississippi River forms a major component of the basin-wide transportation system.  Agricultural commodities such as corn, soybeans, and wheat – produced in the neighboring Missouri River Basin (MRB) as well as in the MsRB – are transported by barges to Gulf ports.  Other forms of transportation of commodities are rail and road transportation.  Since major hydrologic events such as droughts and floods associated with climate variability influence/impact both agricultural production and water levels and flows in reservoirs and water ways, the agriculture and transportation sectors in the MsRB are inter-connected and readiness of both sectors to cope with dry/wet epochs must be assessed together.  Climate adaptation measures must also be developed jointly for the two sectors.  Thus, the scientific objective of the proposed research is:  Characterizing the readiness of institutions to utilize early warning information to develop their own risk based scenarios and meet their drought risk management goals.  The proposed research will also indirectly characterize the role of an early warning system in the context of climate adaptation and resilience.

We will use a variety of climate, hydro-meteorological, streamflow, water level, navigation, water-borne commerce, agricultural, commodity price, and national economic data in this research.  Outputs from global Earth System Models and a 12 km x 12 km version of a land use – hydrology – crop model, the Soil and Water Analysis Tool, as well as data and methodologies from our current U.S. Army Corps of Engineers funded project focused on the MsRB and  U.S. Department of Agriculture funded project focused on the MRB will also be employed in the proposed research. Advisors from the selected sectors have been involved from the proposal preparation stage and will continue to be involved in the proposed research which will be guided by a Stakeholder Advisory Team.  The assessment and scenario-planning methodologies to be developed in this project will be useful to society in maximizing benefits and minimizing adverse impacts of dry/wet spells on navigation and agriculture sectors.

Results will be published in peer-reviewed scientific journals such as Weather, Climate, and Society; Journal of the American Water Resources Association; and Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society. Presentations will be made at national and regional conferences, and at specialty conferences. We will also provide briefings to stakeholders, NIDIS staff, NOAA program managers, NOAA Drought Task Force, and NOAA climate service scientists in the MsRB. In addition, results and recommendations emanating from this study will be placed on appropriate websites.

The proposed research is consistent with the FY2016 SARP emphasis on “Coping with droughts and NIDIS” and is directly relevant to the NIDIS Drought Early Warning Focus Area of Navigation and Agriculture in the MsRB, and will address the following NIDIS objectives:  (1) Characterizing climate-related risk perception among stakeholders faced with making decisions in a variable and changing climate; and (2) Developing drought risk scenarios and how these affect water budgets and accounts.  Also, the proposed research is highly relevant to NOAA’s long-term goal of developing climate adaptation and mitigation strategies as described in NOAA’s Next-Generation Strategic Plan.

Project Status

1. Formed Stakeholder Advisory Team (SAT) for the project.

2. Started interactions with the SAT.

Please see Spring 2017 webinar presentation given to the SAT.

Please see Summer 2017 webinar presentation given to the Directors of  U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Climate Hubs.