Seminar: Hydrologic Perspectives of Vegetation-Climate Interactions throughout Appalachia and its Applications to Science Policy, February 18

Attend the next School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment seminar with Charles I. Scaife, a hydrologist with the U.S. Department of Energy, to learn about strategies to better understand the connection between forests, climate and streamflow.

Hydrologic Perspectives of Vegetation-Climate Interactions throughout Appalachia and its Applications to Science Policy
Presented by Charles I. Scaife, U.S. Department of Energy

Friday, February 18, 2022
3:15–4:15 p.m.
College Avenue Commons (CAVC) 333, Tempe campus [map]


Vegetation is a critical component of ecological and hydrological systems, but rising temperatures, worsening droughts and new disturbance regimes are changing the composition of forests across Southern Appalachia. The connections between forests, climate and streamflow are not well understood and modeling frameworks used to predict future streamflow do not capture these relationships. This research uses decades of hydrological data from across Appalachia to show that forested ecosystems control storm runoff and that streamflow and trees are “competing” for the same soil water resources. Predicting how relationships between forest water use and streamflow change with future climate is critical for water resource planning, but it requires adapting our current models. To address this, this research also integrates principles from plant physiology into hydrologic models to assess the impacts of tree-scale climate interactions on streamflow at watershed scales. Results from this combined empirical and modeling research has been applied to R&D at the U.S. Department of Energy to understand how watershed planning can enhance resilience of both water and energy resources.

About the speaker

Charles Scaife is a hydrologist at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Water Power Technologies office in Washington, D.C., where he leads the hydrologic system science research and development portfolio. At DOE, he manages research aimed at understanding how climate change will impact water resource availability and hydroelectric production across the U.S. and translates these findings to policy.

His work in science policy and communication started as a John A. Knauss Marine Policy Fellow in 2020. Prior to DOE, he conducted extensive empirical and modeling research across Appalachia characterizing how forests use water and how forests respond to climate change. This interdisciplinary research was in partnership with the U.S. Forest Service Coweeta Hydrologic Laboratory and the Coweeta Long-term Ecological Research Site.

Scaife holds a doctorate in environmental sciences from the University of Virginia, a Master of Arts degree in geography and a Bachelor of Science degree in environmental sciences from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.