Moving from water quantity to quality: Exploring climate impacts on eutrophication

Colloquium | September 20 | 3:30-5 p.m. | 575 McCone Hall

 Anna Michalak, Carnegie Institute for Science, Stanford University

 Department of Geography

Questions surrounding water sustainability, climate change, and extreme events are often framed around water quantity – whether too much or too little. The massive impacts of water quality impairments are equally compelling, however, and recent years have provided a host of examples of unprecedented harmful algal blooms and hypoxic dead zones. Linkages between climate change and water quality impacts are not well understood, however. Several factors explain this lack of understanding, including the relative complexity of underlying processes, the spatial and temporal scale mismatch between hydrologists and climatologists, and observational uncertainty leading to ambiguities in the historical record. Focusing on eutrophication, harmful algal blooms, and hypoxic dead zones, this talk will draw on a number of recent studies that aim to quantitatively link meteorological variability and water quality impacts. In doing so, the talk will frame challenges and opportunities related to characterizing water quality, bridging from local to global scales, identifying key drivers, and understanding the role of climate and what the future may hold.