As hydrologic scientists, we know that land surface heterogeneity can have nuanced and sometimes dramatic impacts on the water cycle. Land surface characteristics, including the structure and composition of vegetation and soil storage and drainage properties, alter how incoming precipitation is translated into streamflow and evapotranspiration. Land surface heterogeneity can explain why this partitioning of incoming precipitation cannot always be computed by a simple water budget calculation. We also know that land surface characteristics are dynamic - vegetation grows and changes with fire, disease and human actions and these changes will alter the partitioning of water - how much so, however depends itself on other site characteristics - soil water storage and the timing and magnitude of precipitation. This complex impact of space-time dynamics on the water cycle is something we need to effectively communicate to non-experts. For example, we may want to explain why sometimes forest management practices increase water availability but sometimes they don’t - or why the impacts of urbanization or fire are location specific. If we do not communicate these dependencies we risk over-simplifying and eroding scientific credibility when observed effects don’t match simple generalizations. On the other hand excessive detail can overwhelm and disengage audiences. So how do we help different communities public, private landowners, other scientists, NGOs, governments to better understand the role of space-time heterogeneity. To address this issue, we present some results from ongoing work that looks at the impact of fuel treatment of forest ecohydrology. This work stem from a collaboration between an ecohydrologic modeling team, social-scientists, a visual artist and compute graphics students. We use a coupled model, validated with field measurements, to show why spatial heterogeneity matters for understanding the impact of fuel treatments on the water cycle for the Sierra Critical Zone Observatory. We summarize current findings and present initial designs for translating these science based results into interactive visualization and conceptual art installations with the goal of better communicating the different components of landscape heterogeneity and why it matters
Tague, C.; Burke, W.; Ryan, B.; Turpin, E.; Wood, G. (2017): Communicating why land surface heterogeneity matters . Fall Meeting, American Geophysical Union, December 2017. Abstract H51A-1249..