UC Center for Hydrologic Modeling
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UCCHM Newsletter                                                                        March 21, 2014


A Note from the Director

Tomorrow is World Water Day, a day designated by the United Nations to remind us of the very crucial, and yet, undervalued role that water plays in our daily lives. On this special day (March 22 each year), we take some time to reflect on the importance and interconnectivity of water to all life. And as California finds itself in the midst of an 'epic' drought emergency, water is at the forefront of discussion these days. 

With the worst drought in state history taking place in our own backyard, we've had our hands full. Applying our research techniques to the drought and evaluating the status of state water resources has become priority number one. After Governor Brown declared a drought emergency back in January, the UCCHM team went straight to work, producing a preliminary report discussing groundwater storage losses specific to California. Frankly, our findings are cause for alarm, and further proof that statewide management policies have to change, especially in the case of groundwater.

We at the UCCHM are committed to using our research results to inform and advise leadership about the implications of the drought, in the hopes of influencing real solutions and effective policy. On several occasions this year, members of the UCCHM and myself were invited to meet with leaders in Washington, DC and Sacramento to brief them of our findings and discuss solutions. These meetings are a positive step, and it will take true collaboration with all stakeholders to successfully navigate through this drought emergency, and beyond.

In partnership with UCI Facilities Management and students of my undergraduate class, Regional Environmental Issues, we’re spearheading an on-campus effort to spread drought awareness, called “DroughtReach.” Water conservation pledges, social media campaigns and student-developed PSA’s are just some of the projects we’re working on to raise public awareness of the severity of this drought.

Keep an eye out for continuous drought coverage and different ways you can conserve water at Small changes can make a lasting impact and every drop counts. Stay informed and get involved!
Jay Famiglietti
Director, UCCHM

Researcher Spotlight

Alys Thomas

This quarter, we would like to highlight the work of Alys Thomas, a graduate student researcher in the Department of Earth System Science here at UC Irvine. Alys uses NASA’s GRACE (Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment) satellites to evaluate and understand drought from a unique perspective.
For Alys, the road to her position as a drought researcher at UC Irvine has been far from typical. After receiving her B.S. in Environmental Science and minor in Meteorology from the Florida Institute of Technology, Alys pursued two years of coursework and experience in Broadcast Journalism. “I wanted to be a Broadcast Meteorologist,” she said. “I worked at FOX television station as an intern for a year before I realized I wanted more science and less ‘made for TV.’” Alys grew increasingly aware of her need to know the ‘why’ behind the everyday processes and occurrences she described on-screen. This served as the driving force behind her decision to pursue two master’s degrees--the first in Soil, Water and Environmental Science from the University of Arizona; the second in Earth System Science from UC Irvine, which she is currently completing.
Alys is primarily interested in supplying answers to real-world problems. “I love the [practical] application of science and teaching people about the physical science behind natural disasters, like drought.” Drought, as a focal point of research, appealed to Alys because of its relevance and large scope of global impact. “Earth is a puzzle. I’ve chosen to focus on the pieces that connect climate, drought, and water resources.”
In her most recent publication, Alys and her coauthors (UCCHM’s J.T. Reager, Jay Famiglietti and Matt Rodell of NASA Goddard), present a new approach to characterizing the severity of drought using GRACE satellites. The paper, “A GRACE-based water storage deficit approach for hydrological drought characterization,” was published in Geophysical Research Letters on March 5th. This GRACE-based approach offers a more sophisticated method of understanding drought severity, by looking at total water storage changes and deficits.
Over the past few years, Alys has been honored as a 2013 NASA Student Ambassador and awarded the NASA Graduate Student Research Project Fellowship and University of Arizona/NASA Space Grant Fellowship. In just a few weeks, Alys will represent the UCCHM at the “International Workshop on Small Satellites and Sensor Technology for Disaster Management” at the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore, India. Her presentation, entitled “Monitoring Terrestrial Hydrology with GRACE Satellites,” will discuss past and current research focused on monitoring hydrologic extremes (floods and droughts) with the use of GRACE.
Overall, Alys hopes to use her research for the good of society. “I want to contribute to helping people understand and adapt to our changing world.”
Find the full version of “A GRACE-based water storage deficit approach for hydrological drought characterization” HERE.
For more information discussing the basics of Alys’ methods for this paper, please visit the Be Water Blog HERE.


Groundwater Depletion in the Colorado River Basin

This first UCCHM infographic installment features the general facts and findings of a soon-to-be-published paper on groundwater depletion in the Colorado River Basin by UCCHM’s Stephanie Castle (coauthored by UCCHM's Jay Famiglietti, Brian Thomas, JT Reager, NASA Goddard's Matt Rodell and Sean Swenson of NCAR). Surface water in the basin has been closely monitored for years, while groundwater (an equally important resource) is slowly disappearing. Click HERE to see the entire interactive infographic.

Publications and Presentations


Thomas, A. C., J. T. Reager, J. S. Famiglietti, and M. Rodell (2014), A GRACE-based water storage deficit approach for hydrological drought characterization, Geophys. Res. Lett., 41, DOI:10.1002/2014GL059323. Available here

Litvak, E. Bijoor, N.S., Pataki, D.E. (2014), Adding trees to irrigated turfgrass lawns may be a water-saving measure in semi-arid environments. Ecohydrology. DOI: 10.1002/eco.1458. Available here

Cai, Xitian, Zong-Liang Yang, Cédric H. David, Guo-Yue Niu, and Matthew Rodell (2014), Hydrological evaluation of the Noah-MP land surface model for the Mississippi River Basin, Journal of Geophysical Research – Atmospheres, 119, 1-16, DOI: 10.1002/2013JD020792. Available here.

Presentations + Posters

Thomas, A.C., 2014-Presented, “Monitoring terrestrial hydrology with GRACE satellites", International workshop on Small Satellite and Sensor Technology for Disaster Management, Bangalore, India, 31 March-April 2.

David, C.H., 2014-Presented (invited), EarthCube End User/Professional Societies Workshop, Washington, DC, 17-18 March.

Famiglietti, J.S., 2014-Presented, “Management of California’s Groundwater Resources”, California State Assembly, Committee on Water, Parks and Wildlife, Sacramento, CA, 11 March.

Reager, J.T., M.H. Lo, D.P. Chambers and J.S. Famiglietti, 2014-Poster: “Gravity observations show recent land contributions to sea level offset by hydrological cycle variability”. American Geophysical Union, Ocean Sciences Meeting, Honolulu, HI.

David, C.H., J.T. Reager, and J.S. Famiglietti, 2014-Presented: “Hyper-resolution modeling of surface water – challenges and opportunities”, Workshop on Hyper-resolution Global Hydrologic Modeling: The Next Steps, Utrecht, Netherlands, 13-14 February.
Nanteza, J., B.F. Thomas, C. de Linage, J.S. Famiglietti, 2013-Presented: “Evaluation of GRACE groundwater estimates over East Africa”. American Geophysical Union, Fall Meeting 2013, San Francisco, CA.



Drought Science, Policy and Management Summit - University of California

3/31 - 4/2
International Workshop on Small Satellite and Sensor Technology for Disaster Management

ClimatePalooza - USC Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism

3/26 - 3/27
Children's Water Education Festival

World Water Day!

Running Dry - Desert Sun Drought Symposium

Ask a Leader - KUCI - "It's Our Drought"


UC Riverside Living Green Lecture Series - Water in the Desert: Not a Dry Subject. Yet.


Joint Hearing – California State Assembly: Management of California’s Groundwater Resources

Aquifer at Risk - Forum to Focus on Managing Groundwater During Drought

California EPA - Jay Famiglietti Participates in State Water Workshop on Groundwater



American Geophysical Union (AGU) Fall Meeting 2013


Southern California Water Workshop hosted by Congresswoman Grace Napolitano

UCCHM in the News

The Desert Sun

Expert: Valley Must Join in Solution to Water Decline in California

SF Gate

California Drought: Strife Over Groundwater Boils Over

USA Today

Letters to LA: Drought Seems Far Away

Southern California Public Radio

California Drought: Orange County Expands ‘Toilet to Tap’ Water Recycling


Circle of Blue

Water Experts Discuss Causes and Implications of California Drought


Southern California Public Radio

Taking the Science of Drought to Capitol Hill


The Los Angeles Times

Patt Morrison Asks - Jay Famiglietti’s Mission: To Save Us From Our Bad Water Habits


The San Francisco Chronicle

California Drought a ‘Train Wreck’ for Central Valley Farms


The Guardian

Why Global Water Shortages Pose Threat of Terror and War


Press Release

Satellites Show ‘Total’ California Water Storage at Near-Decade Low


Bloomberg News

California Governor Appoints UC’s Famiglietti to Water Board

Be Water, My Friend


Raising Drought Awareness 

If you would like to support the research and outreach efforts of the UCCHM, please click HERE for more information.
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