, Volume 59, Issue 1-2, pp 245-262

Upper Yellowstone River Flow and Teleconnections with Pacific Basin Climate Variability during the Past Three Centuries

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Abstract

Climate variability, coupled with increasing demand is raising concerns about the sustainability of water resources in the western United States. Tree-ring reconstructions of stream flow that extend the observational record by several centuries provide critical information on the short-term variability and multi-decadal trends in water resources. In this study, precipitation sensitive Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menzeisii) tree ringrecords are used to reconstruct annual flow of the Yellowstone River back to A.D. 1706. Linkages between precipitation in the Greater Yellowstone Region and climate variability in the Pacific basin were incorporated into our model by including indices Pacific Ocean interannual and decadal-scale climatic variability, namely the Pacific Decadal Oscillation and the Southern Oscillation. The reconstruction indicates that 20th century streamflow is not representative of flow during the previous two centuries. With the exception of the 1930s, streamflow during the 20th century exceeded average flows during the previous 200 years. The drought of the 1930s resulted in the lowest flows during the last three centuries, however, this probably does not represent a worst-case scenario for the Yellowstone as other climate reconstructions indicate more extreme droughts prior to the 18th century.