Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences

Ben Livneh

Ben Livneh

Research Interests

My research group explores the impacts of changing land-cover and climate on water resources. Specifically, we seek to quantify how changes in the mean-state and variability of the hydrologic system are changing, to identify key processes and explore predictability. A component particular sensitive to change in the western U.S. is snowpack, serving as a natural reservoir to store winter precipitation and release it during the warm-season when it is needed most. Active areas of research include sediment transport, land-cover disturbance, hydrologic connectivity, forecasting, and estimating components of the surface water balance from space.

Current Research

Climate variability and increasing water demands are stressing water resources in many areas. Improved understanding of the interaction between the natural hydrologic cycle and external landscape processes (e.g., water and land management practices) termed ‘external forcings’ will be critical for water resources management and planning. These external forcings include changes in water use, land use, land cover, and reservoir operations, all of which skew relationships between climactic and hydrologic variables. Presently, external forcings on hydrology are not well identified or quantified. Quantifying external forcings and associated hydrologic impacts are especially important for basins like the Colorado River where mean annual water supply and demand are nearly similar. In this work, a large sample of watersheds (> 100) in the Colorado and other major river basins with diverse climates and varying degrees of external forcing are analyzed. A data base of possible streamflow drivers is being developed using in situ and remote sensing products (evaporation, temperature, soil moisture etc.). The Figure shows the degree of various disturbances across U.S. watersheds being analyzed from the GAGES-II database.

Most people assume that greater forest disturbance will result in more water flowing out of watersheds. Not necessarily so, is the finding from recent research between the Livneh laboratory and collaboration with the University of Alaska, Southeast. By combining 30m global forest disturbance datasets with long-term, ongoing USGS streamflow observations, we were able to accurately monitor when and where disturbance occurs, and tie that to disruptions in the water outputs of critical watersheds across the nation.  Using a large-sample of watersheds with high quality data from southern Florida to northwest Washington, we found that after a forest disturbance event, streamflow can increase or decrease depending on critical landscape factors.

Highly disturbed, arid watersheds with low soil: water contact time are the most likely to see increases in water yield following disturbance, with response magnitude positively correlated with the extent of disturbance. Watersheds dominated by deciduous forest with low bulk density soils generally showed reduced yield post-disturbance. Post-disturbance streamflow timing change was associated with climate, forest type, and soil. Snowy coniferous watersheds were generally insensitive to disturbance, whereas watersheds with finely textured soils and flashy runoff were more sensitive. This was the first national scale investigation of streamflow post-disturbance using fused gage and remotely sensed data at high resolution, yielding important insights to anticipate changes in streamflow that may result from future disturbances.



Sources of hydrologic disturbance: Percent of watershed area developed (upper left), planted or cultivated (agriculture; upper right), as well as depth of reservoir storage per watershed area (lower left), and an overall Hydrologic Disturbance Index as of 2006, representing a composite of percent volume withdrawn, percent irrigated area, percent developed area, percent cultivated area and road density (lower right).

Forest Disturbance and Hydrologic Response: (a) Percent of forest cover in a large-sample of national watersheds and their degree of disturbance, (b) watershed grouping based in the change in the centroid of runoff timing following disturbance, either early, no-change-, or later runoff timing, and (c) change in total annual streamflow (or water yield) following disturbance, where watersheds either saw decreased, no-change, or increased water yield.

View Publications

  • Mizukami, N, MP Clark, ED Gutmann, PA Mendoza, AJ Newman, B Nijssen, Ben Livneh, LE Hay, JR Arnold and LD Brekke (2016), Implications of the Methodological Choices for Hydrologic Portrayals of Climate Change over the Contiguous United States: Statistically Downscaled Forcing Data and Hydrologic Models. J. Hydrometeorol. Version: 1 17 (1) 73-98, issn: 1525-755X, ids: CZ9FH, doi: 10.1175/JHM-D-14-0187.1
  • Livneh, B, R Kumar and L Samaniego (2015), Influence of soil textural properties on hydrologic fluxes in the Mississippi river basin. Hydrol. Processes Version: 1 AGU Fall Meeting 29 (21) 4638-4655, San Francisco, CA, DEC 09-13, 2013, issn: 0885-6087, ids: CU1JQ, doi: 10.1002/hyp.10601
  • Funk, C, S Shukla, A Hoell and B Livneh (2015), ASSESSING THE CONTRIBUTIONS OF EAST AFRICAN AND WEST PACIFIC WARMING TO THE 2014 BOREAL SPRING EAST AFRICAN DROUGHT. Bull. Amer. Meteorol. Soc. Version: 1 96 (12) S77-S82, issn: 0003-0007, ids: DB4SL, doi: 10.1175/BAMS-D-15-00106.1
  • Lundquist, JD, M Hughes, B Henn, ED Gutmann, B Livneh, J Dozier and P Neiman (2015), High-Elevation Precipitation Patterns: Using Snow Measurements to Assess Daily Gridded Datasets across the Sierra Nevada, California. J. Hydrometeorol. Version: 1 16 (4) 1773-1792, issn: 1525-755X, ids: CP3FI, doi: 10.1175/JHM-D-15-0019.1
  • Livneh, B, JS Deems, B Buma, JJ Barsugli, D Schneider, NP Molotch, K Wolter and CA Wessman (2015), Catchment response to bark beetle outbreak and dust-on-snow in the Colorado Rocky Mountains. J. Hydrol. Version: 1 523 196-210, issn: 0022-1694, ids: CE6TS, doi: 10.1016/j.jhydrol.2015.01.039
  • Livneh, Ben, Theodore J. Bohn, David W. Pierce, Francisco Munoz-Arriola, Bart Nijssen, Russell Vose, Daniel R. Cayan and Levi Brekke (2015), A spatially comprehensive, hydrometeorological data set for Mexico, the US, and Southern Canada 1950-2013. Version: 1 SCIENTIFIC DATA 2 , Art. No. 150042, issn: 2052-4463, doi: 10.1038/sdata.2015.42
  • Pal, I., E. Towler, and B. Livneh (2015), Advancing the Science of Low Flows in a Changing Climate. EOS Trans. AGU Version: 1 96 , doi: 10.1029/2015EO033875
  • Gordon, E., Pugh, E., and B. Livneh (2014), Bark Beetles: Cause for Concern in Snowy Western Watersheds?. Utility Intelligence & Infrastructure Version: 1
  • Livneh, B, JS Deems, D Schneider, JJ Barsugli and NP Molotch (2014), Filling in the gaps: Inferring spatially distributed precipitation from gauge observations over complex terrain. Water Resour. Res. Version: 1 50 (11) 8589-8610, issn: 0043-1397, ids: AX0PQ, doi: 10.1002/2014WR015442
  • Kumar, SV, CD Peters-Lidard, D Mocko, R Reichle, YQ Liu, KR Arsenault, YL Xia, M Ek, G Riggs, B Livneh and M Cosh (2014), Assimilation of Remotely Sensed Soil Moisture and Snow Depth Retrievals for Drought Estimation. J. Hydrometeorol. Version: 1 15 (6) 2446-2469, issn: 1525-755X, ids: AU9FZ, doi: 10.1175/JHM-D-13-0132.1
  • Chen, F, M Barlage, M Tewari, R Rasmussen, JM Jin, D Lettenmaier, B Livneh, CY Lin, G Miguez-Macho, GY Niu, LJ Wen and ZL Yang (2014), Modeling seasonal snowpack evolution in the complex terrain and forested Colorado Headwaters region: A model intercomparison study. J. Geophys. Res.-Atmos. Version: 1 119 (24) 13795-13819, issn: 2169-897X, ids: AZ8IX, doi: 10.1002/2014JD022167
  • Livneh, B and DP Lettenmaier (2013), Regional parameter estimation for the unified land model. Water Resour. Res. Version: 1 49 (1) 100-114, issn: 0043-1397, ids: 129GR, doi: 10.1029/2012WR012220
  • Xia, YL, M Ek, J Sheffield, B Livneh, MY Huang, HL Wei, S Feng, LF Luo, J Meng and E Wood (2013), Validation of Noah-Simulated Soil Temperature in the North American Land Data Assimilation System Phase 2. J. Appl. Meteor. Clim. Version: 1 52 (2) 455-471, issn: 1558-8424, ids: 097JO, doi: 10.1175/JAMC-D-12-033.1
  • Bohn, TJ, B Livneh, JW Oyler, SW Running, B Nijssen and DP Lettenmaier (2013), Global evaluation of MTCLIM and related algorithms for forcing of ecological and hydrological models. Agric. For. Meteorol. Version: 1 176 38-49, issn: 0168-1923, ids: 165IE, doi: 10.1016/j.agrformet.2013.03.003
  • Kumar, R, B Livneh and L Samaniego (2013), Toward computationally efficient large-scale hydrologic predictions with a multiscale regionalization scheme. Water Resour. Res. Version: 1 49 (9) 5700-5714, issn: 0043-1397, ids: 238ZO, doi: 10.1002/wrcr.20431
  • Livneh, B, EA Rosenberg, CY Lin, B Nijssen, V Mishra, KM Andreadis, EP Maurer and DP Lettenmaier (2013), A Long-Term Hydrologically Based Dataset of Land Surface Fluxes and States for the Conterminous United States: Update and Extensions. J. Clim. Version: 1 26 (23) 9384-9392, issn: 0894-8755, ids: 253AN, doi: 10.1175/JCLI-D-12-00508.1
  • Mahanama, S, B Livneh, R Koster, D Lettenmaier and R Reichle (2012), Soil Moisture, Snow, and Seasonal Streamflow Forecasts in the United States. J. Hydrometeorol. Version: 1 13 (1) 189-203, issn: 1525-755X, ids: 890IN, doi: 10.1175/JHM-D-11-046.1
  • Livneh, B and DP Lettenmaier (2012), Multi-criteria parameter estimation for the Unified Land Model. Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci. Version: 1 16 (8) 3029-3048, issn: 1027-5606, ids: 998ND, doi: 10.5194/hess-16-3029-2012
  • Sheffield, J, B Livneh and EF Wood (2012), Representation of Terrestrial Hydrology and Large-Scale Drought of the Continental United States from the North American Regional Reanalysis. J. Hydrometeorol. Version: 1 13 (3) 856-876, issn: 1525-755X, ids: 965OH, doi: 10.1175/JHM-D-11-065.1
  • Xia, YL, K Mitchell, M Ek, B Cosgrove, J Sheffield, LF Luo, C Alonge, HL Wei, J Meng, B Livneh, QY Duan and D Lohmann (2012), Continental-scale water and energy flux analysis and validation for North American Land Data Assimilation System project phase 2 (NLDAS-2): 2. Validation of model-simulated streamflow. J. Geophys. Res.-Atmos. Version: 1 117 , Art. No. D03110, issn: 2169-897X, ids: 887VW, doi: 10.1029/2011JD016051
  • Xia, YL, K Mitchell, M Ek, J Sheffield, B Cosgrove, E Wood, LF Luo, C Alonge, HL Wei, J Meng, B Livneh, D Lettenmaier, V Koren, QY Duan, K Mo, Y Fan and D Mocko (2012), Continental-scale water and energy flux analysis and validation for the North American Land Data Assimilation System project phase 2 (NLDAS-2): 1. Intercomparison and application of model products. J. Geophys. Res.-Atmos. Version: 1 117 , Art. No. D03109, issn: 2169-897X, ids: 887VW, doi: 10.1029/2011JD016048
  • Livneh, B, PJ Restrepo and DP Leitenmaier (2011), Development of a Unified Land Model for Prediction of Surface Hydrology and Land-Atmosphere Interactions. J. Hydrometeorol. Version: 1 12 (6) 1299-1320, issn: 1525-755X, ids: 864CU, doi: 10.1175/2011JHM1361.1
  • Koster, RD, SPP Mahanama, B Livneh, DP Lettenmaier and RH Reichle (2010), Skill in streamflow forecasts derived from large-scale estimates of soil moisture and snow. Nature Geosci. Version: 1 3 (9) 613-616, issn: 1752-0894, ids: 645NL, doi: 10.1038/NGEO944
  • Barlage, M, F Chen, M Tewari, K Ikeda, D Gochis, J Dudhia, R Rasmussen, B Livneh, M Ek and K Mitchell (2010), Noah land surface model modifications to improve snowpack prediction in the Colorado Rocky Mountains. J. Geophys. Res.-Atmos. Version: 1 115 , Art. No. D22101, issn: 2169-897X, ids: 683MY, doi: 10.1029/2009JD013470
  • Livneh, B, YL Xia, KE Mitchell, MB Ek and DP Lettenmaier (2010), Noah LSM Snow Model Diagnostics and Enhancements. J. Hydrometeorol. Version: 1 11 (3) 721-738, issn: 1525-755X, ids: 618PI, doi: 10.1175/2009JHM1174.1
  • Casola, JH, L Cuo, B Livneh, DP Lettenmaier, MT Stoelinga, PW Mote and JM Wallace (2009), Assessing the Impacts of Global Warming on Snowpack in the Washington Cascades. J. Clim. Version: 1 22 (10) 2758-2772, issn: 0894-8755, ids: 453CG, doi: 10.1175/2008JCLI2612.1
  • Livneh, B and MH El Naggar (2008), Axial testing and numerical modeling of square shaft helical plies under compressive and tensile loading. Can. Geotech. J. Version: 1 45 (8) 1142-1155, issn: Aug-74, ids: 353NS, doi: 10.1139/T08-044