Multiscale temporal variability and regional patterns in 555 years of conterminous U.S. streamflow

Water Resources Research | Ho et al. [2017]


The development of paleoclimate streamflow reconstructions in the conterminous United States (CONUS) has provided water resource managers with improved insights into multidecadal and centennial scale variability that cannot be reliably detected using shorter instrumental records. Paleoclimate streamflow reconstructions have largely focused on individual catchments limiting the ability to quantify variability across the CONUS. The Living Blended Drought Atlas (LBDA), a spatially and temporally complete 555 year long paleoclimate record of summer drought across the CONUS, provides an opportunity to reconstruct and characterize streamflow variability at a continental scale. We explore the validity of the first paleoreconstructions of streamflow that span the CONUS informed by the LBDA targeting a set of U.S. Geological Survey streamflow sites. The reconstructions are skillful under cross validation across most of the country, but the variance explained is generally low. Spatial and temporal structures of streamflow variability are analyzed using hierarchical clustering, principal component analysis, and wavelet analyses. Nine spatially coherent clusters are identified. The reconstructions show signals of contemporary droughts such as the Dust Bowl (1930s) and 1950s droughts. Decadal-scale variability was detected in the late 1900s in the western U.S., however, similar modes of temporal variability were rarely present prior to the 1950s. The twentieth century featured longer wet spells and shorter dry spells compared with the preceding 450 years. Streamflows in the Pacific Northwest and Northeast are negatively correlated with the central U.S. suggesting the potential to mitigate some drought impacts by balancing economic activities and insurance pools across these regions during major droughts.

Full text can be found here.



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