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Secular Variations in Streamflow in the Western United States

David M. MekoLaboratory of Tree-Ring Research, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ 85721

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Charles W. StocktonLaboratory of Tree-Ring Research, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ 85721

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Abstract

Long-term streamflow series in the western United States were examined for evidence of secular changes related to climate. Streamflow series contained appreciable low-frequency variation related to the combined influence of temperature and precipitation. Evidence of nonstationarity was found in selected records for the Pacific Northwest and the Upper Colorado Basins: mean annual streamflow increased significantly (0.05 level) from the first to last half of the 1914–80 period in the Pacific Northwest, and decreased significantly over the same period in the Upper Colorado region. Correlation analyses and examination of drought years revealed a strong tendency for anomalies of opposite sign in the Pacific Northwest and the Southwest. Drought in the Upper Colorado Basin was statistically independent of drought in the Pacific Northwest. Under exceptional meteorological conditions (e.g., water-year 1976–77), however, low flows occurred over a vast area from the Northwest coast to the mountains of central Arizona.

Abstract

Long-term streamflow series in the western United States were examined for evidence of secular changes related to climate. Streamflow series contained appreciable low-frequency variation related to the combined influence of temperature and precipitation. Evidence of nonstationarity was found in selected records for the Pacific Northwest and the Upper Colorado Basins: mean annual streamflow increased significantly (0.05 level) from the first to last half of the 1914–80 period in the Pacific Northwest, and decreased significantly over the same period in the Upper Colorado region. Correlation analyses and examination of drought years revealed a strong tendency for anomalies of opposite sign in the Pacific Northwest and the Southwest. Drought in the Upper Colorado Basin was statistically independent of drought in the Pacific Northwest. Under exceptional meteorological conditions (e.g., water-year 1976–77), however, low flows occurred over a vast area from the Northwest coast to the mountains of central Arizona.

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