This August 2011 Dr. Steve Shaw joined our Department after overseeing many remarkable projects at the NYS Water Resources Institute and completing his graduate training at Cornell University. Steve is teaching our Fluid Mechanics course, preparing a spring course called, “Hydrology in a Changing Climate” and is active with new research projects.

Steve, to right, letting students get their hands wet setting up a Fluid Mechanics experiment.

Steve is working in the area of hydro-climatology, assessing the impacts to water resources given recorded and predicted climate change. He is interested in carefully assessing the basic physical assumptions used by others when forecasting changes to land surface hydrology resulting from climate change. Steve says researchers are often focused on downscaling regional General Circulation Model (GCM) runs to local impacts and/or translating regional GCM estimates of climate change across broad geographic regions like the entire US or world.

Steve believes we need a methodical and systematic analysis of hydrological processes involved in downscaling and translation of climate change. His research seeks to provide this analysis and improve estimation of local to continental watershed response to climate change forcing. One approach used by Steve is to cross-compare hydrological data from different hydroclimatological regions and identify the distinct data signature and hydrologic process of each region, such as evaporation controls on crop yield, aridity controls on groundwater discharge rates, and air temperature controls on rainfall intensity. He prefers to develop and use relative simple models to analyze differences between data signatures to tease out significant differences in driving processes.

Some topic areas of interest to Steve include:

  1. Are we misapplying Boussinesq theory when we explain streamflow recessions in watersheds that are not groundwater dominated?
  2. Is there really an upper limit to stream temperature in all streams, or is it only present in arid regions?
  3. Are changes in flood frequency due to climate change easier to predict in some regions compared to others?
  4. How much variability in historical annual corn grain yield can actually be explained by climate variability in different growing regions?
  5. Do forest canopy characteristics matter more than we think in estimating evapotranspiration from forested watersheds?
  6. Are changes in extreme rainfall in some regions due predominantly to thermodynamic effects while in others changes are due to a broad shift in underlying circulation?

If this is as exciting to you as it is to our ERE friends, then get involved! Steve tells us he is always in search of enthusiastic graduate students or possible collaborators.

Students in Fluid Mechanics lab discovering they can predict the distance water squirts!