Seasonal Cycle Shifts in Hydroclimatology over the Western United States

By Satish Kumar Regonda, Balaji Rajagopalan, Martyn Clark and John Pitlick. Published in Journal of Climate, 18, 372–384, 2005.

Abstract. Analyses of streamflow, snow mass temperature, and precipitation in snowmelt-dominated river basins in the western United States indicate an advance in the timing of peak spring season flows over the past 50 years. Warm temperature spells in spring have occurred much earlier in recent years, which explains in part the trend in the timing of the spring peak flow. In addition, a decrease in snow water equivalent and a general increase in winter precipitation are evident for many stations in the western United States. It appears that in recent decades more of the precipitation is coming as rain rather than snow. The trends are strongest at lower elevations and in the Pacific Northwest region, where winter temperatures are closer to the melting point; it appears that in this region in particular, modest shifts in temperature are capable of forcing large shifts in basin hydrologic response. It is speculated that these trends could be potentially a manifestation of the general global warming trend in recent decades and also due to enhanced ENSO activity. The observed trends in hydroclimatology over the western United States can have significant impacts on water resources planning and management.


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