Environmental Monitoring and Assessment

, Volume 171, Issue 1, pp 47-58

First online:

Streamflow variability and hydroclimatic change at the Bear Brook Watershed in Maine (BBWM), USA

  • Jong-Suk KimAffiliated withDepartment of Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of Maine
  • , Shaleen JainAffiliated withDepartment of Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of MaineClimate Change Institute, University of Maine Email author 
  • , Stephen A. NortonAffiliated withClimate Change Institute, University of MaineDepartment of Earth Science, University of Maine

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Seasonal variations in streamflow and the associated hydrologic extremes impart significant temporal structure to watershed-scale chemical fluxes. Consequently, a careful characterization of the episodic-to-seasonal and longer-term streamflow variations is a first step toward developing a comprehensive view of the temporal dynamics of watershed processes in a changing climate. Here we analyze a nearly two-decade-long streamflow record for the East Bear subwatershed within the Bear Brook Watershed in Maine (BBWM) (USA) to understand the envelope of streamflow variability by season, with a particular focus on the high flow events that have a disproportionately large impact on the biogeochemical processes and fluxes. Interannual and longer-term variations in a number of derived statistical metrics of hydrologic variability are examined. Our analysis shows substantial interannual and longer-term variability in seasonal flow volumes and peak flows. Furthermore, a long, unimpaired streamflow record for the Narraguagus River (a proximate watershed to the BBWM) is examined with a view to understand the relative coherence in hydrologic variability, as well as quantifying the decadal and longer-term hydrologic variations in this region. We find that the streamflow variability in the two watersheds shows similarity in all seasons. A moving window analysis to assess the changing flood potential over time indicates upward trends in the recent decades. Spring season (March–May) flood estimates show a near-monotonic trend over the 1949–2008 record. Finally, empirical relationships between streamflow and large-scale atmospheric circulation patterns highlight the regional and global climatic drivers of hydrologic extremes in this region, including impacts from remnants of Atlantic hurricanes.


Hydrologic change Watershed fluxes Hydrogeochemistry Climate change Bear Brook Watershed in Maine