Events & Media: Jay Famiglietti

The Bren School of Environmental Science & Management
at the University of California, Santa Barbara



"Water Cycle Change and the Human Fingerprint on
the Water Landscape of the 21st Century:
Observations from a Decade of GRACE."

Jay Famiglietti
Earth System Science - Environmental Engineering

UC Center for Hydrologic Modeling
University of California, Irvine

Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2012
11:30 - 12:30
Bren Hall 1414

"The Geological Society of America selected Dr. Famiglietti as the 2012 Birdsall-Dreiss Lecturer, for which he travels around the country giving talks at universities, like the Grateful Dead, but they're lectures, not concerts. We are delighted to host him at UCSB. Jay's research addresses the role of hydrology in continental and global-scale coupled processes. I plan to interrupt my sabbatical and return to UCSB for Jay's lecture. You ought to attend, too." — Jeff Dozier, speaker host

Over the last decade, satellite observations of Earth's water cycle from NASA's GRACE (Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment) mission, have provided an unprecedented view of global hydrological change and freshwater availability. Since its launch, the mission has helped to confirm that precipitation, evaporation and continental discharge rates are increasing, that the mid-latitudes are drying while the high and low latitudes are moistening, and that the hydrologic extremes of flooding and drought are becoming even more extreme. Importantly, GRACE has exposed the human fingerprint of water management practices such as groundwater use and reservoir storage, which raises many important issues forclimate, water, food and economic security. Moreover, the GRACE mission has enabled us to peer beneath Earth's surface and characterize the worldwide depletion of groundwater aquifers, raising significant concerns about the potential for heightened conflict over transboundary water resources. In this talk I review the basics of how the GRACE mission observes terrestrial and global hydrology, what new information the mission has provided since its launch in 2002, and the implications for the future of water availability and sustainable water resources management.

As the 2012 Birdsall-Dreiss Distinguished Lecturer of the Geological Society of America. Professor James S. (Jay) Famiglietti is lecturing internationally on global- water-cycle change and freshwater availability. The blog posts published here are primarily a journal of his thoughts and experiences during the lectureship.

Dr. Famiglietti's research group focuses on how the water cycle and freshwater resources are being impacted by climate change. They develop advanced computer models and use satellite remote sensing and to track water availability around the globe. His work has been incorporated into several of the world's leading global climate models, the complex numerical simulators that are used to predict and understand global change, and that provide the basis for assessment of future climate in the IPCC reports. Most recently, he and his students have pioneered methods using data from a new satellite gravity mission to identify groundwater depletion in the world's major aquifers. Their work has highlighted unsustainable rates of groundwater use around the globe, from Central Valley and the High Plains aquifers in the U. S. to the Middle East, India, China and Australia.

Prof. Famiglietti is the founding director of the UC Center for Hydrologic Modeling, a new University of California system-wide center to develop state-of-the-art predictive models to address high-priority water issues in California and the western United States. He has testified before Congress on his recent work on groundwater depletion in California, which was also featured in The New York Times; and he has briefed international leaders including former United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan and United States Secretary of Energy Steven Chu. Dr Famiglietti appears in the upcoming documentary on water scarcity called "Last Call at the Oasis."

NOTE: Research colloquia are hosted by Bren faculty members and are generally high-level talks about research in a particular area of environmental science and management.


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