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SDSM& T News
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Phone: ( 605) 394- 6082/ 2554 • Fax: ( 605) 394- 3388
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
( May 1, 1997)
RECENT FLOODING UNDERSCORES NEED FOR UPPER MISSOURI RIVER BASIN HYDROLOGY PROJECT PENDING WITH NASA
Recent flooding in South Dakota and other states in the Missouri River Basin emphasizes the importance of the Upper Missouri River Basin Hydrology Project being considered for funding by NASA. The proposed project, in which the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology is the lead institution, would be part of NASA’s Mission to Planet Earth program and would be a collaborative research effort of universities and federal agencies in the region. The five- year, $ 14 million project is endorsed by South Dakota’s Congressional delegation and currently is pending a funding decision by officials at NASA Headquarters in Washington, DC.
If funding is approved, the Upper Missouri River Basin Project will provide a cohesive, relevant program of joint scientific investigations designed to examine the linkages between regional land cover, land use, topography, climate, and the water cycle. Recent research results, including those obtained subsequent to the major midwestern flood of 1993, have demonstrated the significant feedback mechanisms that exist between surface conditions, precipitation events, and the ultimate partitioning of the water between evaporation, runoff, or infiltration. A major objective of this research will be to develop an understanding of these complex, coupled processes within the Upper Missouri River Basin region and their effects on the variability of the region’s water cycle. To accomplish this objective, the multidisciplinary workplan will utilize an integrated measurement strategy that incorporates both ground- based and airborne experiments, observations from NASA’s Earth Observing System satellites, and coupled atmospheric- surface- subsurface hydrological models. An improved understanding of the basic processes that drive the water cycle will in turn lead to better models that can be used for more accurate predictions of seasonal flood forecasting, of water resource management decisions, and of the climatic and ecological consequences of land- use change.
“ The Upper Missouri River Basin Project offers a tremendous potential to enhance our understanding of the region’s climate and hydrology,” said SDSM& T President Richard J. Gowen. “ By bringing together the leading scientific resources in the region, this study will provide knowledge that will benefit not only the Upper Missouri River Basin, but also the national and international community.“
The Upper Missouri River Basin Project’s research would be divided into three groups: Basin- wide issues, those pertaining mainly to the mountainous regions, and the cropland/ grassland parts of the region. The following scientific issues that are unique to the Upper Missouri River Basin also would be addressed:
and- cover classification, characterization of the vegetation canopy, and determination of water, energy and carbon fluxes. The boundary between croplands and grasslands crossing the region makes the area very sensitive to precipitation and other weather/ climate factors. These factors make the region especially sensitive to the potential impacts of climate change.
stimation of precipitation and runoff in the mountainous regions. About half of the Missouri River’s flow at Sioux City derives from runoff, mostly in the form of snowmelt, from the mountainous regions of the Upper Missouri River Basin. The determination of precipitation and snowmelt in the mountain region is essential to an adequate description and prediction of the Basin’s water resources.
Incorporation of ground water and aquifer recharge. The Madison and other aquifers underlie much of the region. Recharge to aquifers is a significant component of the region’s overall water quantities.
This research would be closely coordinated with the activities of the GEWEX Continental- scale International Project ( GCIP), which currently is investigating the water and energy resources of the Mississippi River Basin. GEWEX ( Global Energy and Water Cycle Experiment) is an international program to study the global energy and water cycles, and GCIP is one of several continental- scale projects within GEWEX. GCIP has scheduled an intensive study of the Northwest Large- Scale Area ( LSA- NW), which is roughly congruent with the Upper Missouri River Basin, during the 1999- 2000 period. The Upper Missouri River Basin Project would provide a scientific foundation for GCIP’s Northwest LSA study.
The research proposed under the Upper Missouri River Basin Project would also complement similar studies already being conducted by Canadian scientists for the McKenzie River Basin. SDSM& T has been working with the South Dakota Congressional delegation and its fellow institutional partners to urge NASA to approve funding for the project.
For additional information, contact Dr. Sherry O. Farwell, SDSM& T Dean of Graduate Education and Research, at 394- 2493 or Dr. Paul L. Smith, SDSM& T Institute of Atmospheric Studies, at 394- 2291.
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