WWA's Jeff Lukas and NOAA ESRL scientist Kelly Mahoney were part of a team that produced new understanding and decision support tools for the changing risk of extreme precipitation and its impact on dam safety in our region. The team has just won the 2019 Governor’s Award for High Impact Research!
This effort was part of a larger project sponsored by the Colorado Division of Water Resources and the New Mexico Office of the State Engineer to update decades-old probable maximum precipitation (PMP) estimates using modern technical methods and current scientific understanding. Lukas and Mahoney worked with CIRES scientist Michael Mueller to take stock of the state of the science and practice in PMP estimation with respect to climate change. The resulting synthesis report, Considering Climate Change in the Estimation of Extreme Precipitation for Dam Safety, was released in December 2018 and is included as Volume VI of the final Colorado-New Mexico Regional Extreme Precipitation Study report.
The research is already having an impact on dam safety in Colorado, as the state seeks to update its rules and regulations for dam construction. In January 2019, the Colorado Dam Safety Office proposed Rule 7.2.4, which would apply an atmospheric moisture factor of 7% to PMP values to account for the expected future warming and associated increases in atmospheric moisture availability from 2020 to 2070.