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Research Highlights

March 2014

Regional Analysis at the Climate, Energy, Water, and Land Nexus

The new PRIMA integrated framework addresses crucial scientific questions and environmental decisions

Results: The product of a five-year collaboration between scientists and engineers spanning multiple disciplines at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, the Platform for Regional Integrated Modeling and Analysis, or PRIMA, is a unique framework for simulating the complex interactions among climate, energy, water, land, and related systems at decision-relevant spatial scales. By linking a variety of component models—some built on existing community models and others developed from scratch—PRIMA can simulate a much broader range of human and environmental system processes and interactions than other tools, delivering more robust and comprehensive results. To demonstrate these capabilities, the PRIMA team has been conducting an increasingly sophisticated set of numerical experiments, starting with individual model evaluation and progressing to multi-model coupling. The team currently is conducting a demonstration of the full framework to compare the impacts of climate under a business-as-usual policy future versus a mitigation future with particular focus on energy infrastructure and water scarcity in the eastern half of the United States. However, the PRIMA framework is designed with flexibility in mind and can be applied to other regions, other challenges, and/or with a different combination of component models.

Why It Matters: PRIMA fills two key gaps in understanding and responding to climate change: 1) the ability to understand how large-scale processes will interact with processes at smaller spatial scales to determine how specific systems and sectors will be affected by climate change and 2) the ability to evaluate response options in the context of the coupled human-Earth system. Results from PRIMA will provide critical input for decision makers facing complex questions, such as how climate change and other trends are affecting regional agriculture, regional energy supply and demand, potential options for dealing with changing water resources, or how climate mitigation and adaptation policies may interact to yield unintended consequences (both good and bad).

PRIMA’s initial numerical experiments focus on interactions among climate, energy, water, land, and socioeconomic processes in the eastern United States. Enlarge Image.

"By bringing together models of regional climate, hydrology, energy, agriculture, land use, and other sectors in the context of consistent global climate and socioeconomic boundary conditions, PRIMA provides a way to understand the dynamics of the integrated system," said PRIMA Initiative Lead Ian Kraucunas. "And, PRIMA allows decision makers to evaluate impacts and response options in a rigorous, consistent, multiscale simulation context."

Methods: To ensure relevance to regional issues and account for the high computational costs of some of the PRIMA component models, the PRIMA team uses a novel stakeholder engagement and uncertainty characterization process to determine the most appropriate model components, couplings, domains, and outputs for a particular application and to identify and propagate the most pertinent sources of uncertainty. The PRIMA team also developed a flexible software architecture to facilitate scientific integration across the range of spatial scales, temporal resolutions, and model structures among PRIMA's individual component models. This modular, stakeholder-oriented approach allows for both robust testing of scientific hypotheses and efficient application of the framework to specific regional decisions.

What's Next? The team is working on a separate project funded by the Department of Energy (DOE) that leverages and extends the PRIMA framework to study the impacts of extreme climate events on energy, water, and land systems in the southeastern United States, including the impacts of hurricanes on Gulf Coast energy infrastructure and heat waves on the power grid. This Regional Integrated Assessment Modeling, or RIAM, project also focuses on assessing if, when, and how integrated regional modeling approaches yield better insights than traditional approaches. Future efforts include working with other partners to extend the PRIMA framework to accommodate additional systems, such as better representations of biogeochemistry and/or oil and gas infrastructure, and applying the framework to new regions and decisions. Longer-term goals also include development of simplified representations of some component models to facilitate computationally efficient uncertainty characterization work.

Acknowledgments: The Platform for Regional Integrated Modeling and Analysis Initiative is part of PNNL's Laboratory Directed Research and Development Program. Additional support for the development and application of several model components within the PRIMA framework is provided by the DOE Office of Science's Integrated Assessment Research Program.

Research Area: Climate & Earth Systems Science

Reference: Kraucunas I, L Clarke, J Dirks, J Hathaway, M Hejazi, K Hibbard, M. Huang, C Jin, M Kintner-Meyer, K Kleese van Dam, R Leung, H-Y Li, R Moss, M Peterson, J Rice, M Scott, A Thomson, N Voisin, and T West. 2014. "Investigating the Nexus of Climate, Energy, Water, and Land at Decision-Relevant Scales: the Platform for Regional Integrated Modeling and Analysis (PRIMA)." Climatic Change, Special Issue on Regional Earth System Modeling, eds. Z-L Yang and C Fu. DOI: 10.1007/s10584-014-1064-9.

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