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Hydrology Consulting

by Tim

El Nino Southern Oscillation

El Nino Southern Oscillation

I have a new hydrology consulting idea. I am a civil engineer specializing in computer modeling of hydrologic phenomena. My primary interest is in finding ways to predict water supply farther in the future. I am very familiar with the ESP techniques.

However, I have a problem with them. I think the approach is based on a flawed assumption, thus making the answers misleading at best.

I have been involved in water supply forecasting for many years. As you must know, El Nino tends to cause the Northwest US to be dry and the SW US to be wet.

La Nina reverses these. Two things caught my attention. First, there is a band between the two that can be either wet or dry in any year. ENSO conditions don't give strong guidance. Secondly, although the NW tends to be dry in an El Nino, it is not always so and the entire NW isn't always the same (all wet or all dry).

In an effort to better predict the effect of ENSO and thus increase the lead time for water supply forecasting, I developed a model that uses ENSO conditions to predict quarterly snow accumulation in the mountains of southern Idaho (in the either-way band). My model predicts if the snow accumulation for the quarter will be near-average, above near-average, or below near-average. The forecasts are produced about 2.5 months before the start of the accumulation period. Early versions of the model were correct more than 65 percent of the time. Preliminary testing showed very favorable results for predicing snow accumulation in southern BC and northwestern MT. Other tests showed favorable results for low elevation rain in south central Washington state.

When used for water supply forecasting, ESP models use current basin conditions, sometimes use a short term weather forecast, and then use all/many historical weather data to predict possible flow volumes for the future. This approach is based on the assumption that all historical weather patterns have equal probability of occurance in the future. My concern is simple: My research has convinced me that not all historical weather patterns have an equal probability of occurance.
Some users of the ESP approach try to weight the input in favor of El Nino or La Nina years depending on the current conditions. My work has shown me that this is marginal at best in the NW and SW US, and not applicable in the in-between band.

From the water supply perspective, in October, I can give you a pretty good idea what the following summer's snow melt runoff water supply will look like. ESP runs assuming randomness for the winter weather will be misleading.

I am confident that my model could be applied to other portions of the US and Canada. Mexico is not out of the question. I can try the model for other forecast areas relatively easy if I have the data. However, time availability has been an issue lately for me so I don't want to waste anymore time on this unless I find some interest.

So, what is my problem? It is two-fold. First, the marketing research I've done shows that most people are content using the free forecasts available on the internet rather than paying for a forecast. Secondly, I don't have enough initials after my name to convince people I have any idea what I'm talking about.

I'm just knocking on doors, looking for the right person or organization to work with, or other opportunity working by myself, to pursue some currently undefined options. I would like to start using the model to predict water supply for larger portions of the west. Or, for the agricultural areas of the mid-west. Or Canada. I haven't tried it yet, but I suspect I might be able to do something with temperature forecasts using my model (warm/average/cool). That might lead to opportunities for energy supply companies to use the results.

Barry's Response - Tim, it looks like you are developing something for which a real demand should exist. It's a matter of finding the right niche.

Things to think about include: Who is the target client? Government? Agriculture? Academia?

Once you get these things sorted out, this hydrological consulting business may show some real potential.

Search this site for more information now.

Comments for Hydrology Consulting

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by: Anonymous

It sounds like this model and consulting business has potential. As has been pointed out, finding potential clients and marketing the value that you offer over free forecasts is key. I'd like to see how this model compares to the accuracy of traditional models. If it is more accurate and a potential client can be convinced that the cost of the consulting will provide enough of a return then it may take off. How much more accurate would a forecast have to be to make it worth the cost of the consulting services? In what specific ways would potential clients be able to use this information to improve their bottom line? Would agricultural businesses be able to use these forecast to predict water availability for the next growing season and adjust their crops to maximize outputs for the predicted water supply?

It's a good start, it just needs more details on how it can benefit potential clients.

Who can benefit most from this?
by: Anonymous

You need to find out who can use this kind of research, who can use it in their own business. Find out who could make money from this kind of research and there's your audience.

One of the most interesting reads
by: Anonymous

This is definitely one of the most interesting reads I've has recently. However, same as other person who commented above me, I wonder who will buy this.

Innovative and Interesting
by: Amit

Hi,your idea seems to be great,and hopefully you will get a good platform soon so that people can understand about it.

Interesting but who would buy it?
by: Anonymous

I liked the concept but for my needs, I can go to www.weather.com - who would benefit from this material? Once you find that audience, then market this to them.

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