Jessie Ellen Cherry, International Arctic Research Center & Institute of Northern Engineering, University of Alaska Fairbanks
The supply, demand, and price for hydroelectric power can be strongly influenced by climatic factors such as temperature, precipitation, and water storage by the environment. The climate, in turn, is driven by both natural variability (on a variety of timescales) and anthropogenic forcing. For planning water resource management here in Alaska, particularly for long-lived, large infrastructure projects, it is useful to understand the sources of uncertainty in climate projections and how they influence long-term and short-term decision-making. A case study in Southeast Alaska is described, where most of Alaska’s hydropower facilities are concentrated. Challenges to assessing the regional impacts of climate change here are discussed, as well as our interpretation of the historical record of climate variability. Our analysis concludes that understanding and accounting for natural modes of variability may be as important as planning for long-term climate change when it comes to managing existing hydropower facilities and planning new infrastructure.