Climate Dynamics

, Volume 28, Issue 4, pp 381–407 | Cite as

Past and future changes in climate and hydrological indicators in the US Northeast

  • Katharine HayhoeEmail author
  • Cameron P. Wake
  • Thomas G. Huntington
  • Lifeng Luo
  • Mark D. Schwartz
  • Justin Sheffield
  • Eric Wood
  • Bruce Anderson
  • James Bradbury
  • Art DeGaetano
  • Tara J. Troy
  • David Wolfe


To assess the influence of global climate change at the regional scale, we examine past and future changes in key climate, hydrological, and biophysical indicators across the US Northeast (NE). We first consider the extent to which simulations of twentieth century climate from nine atmosphere-ocean general circulation models (AOGCMs) are able to reproduce observed changes in these indicators. We then evaluate projected future trends in primary climate characteristics and indicators of change, including seasonal temperatures, rainfall and drought, snow cover, soil moisture, streamflow, and changes in biometeorological indicators that depend on threshold or accumulated temperatures such as growing season, frost days, and Spring Indices (SI). Changes in indicators for which temperature-related signals have already been observed (seasonal warming patterns, advances in high-spring streamflow, decreases in snow depth, extended growing seasons, earlier bloom dates) are generally reproduced by past model simulations and are projected to continue in the future. Other indicators for which trends have not yet been observed also show projected future changes consistent with a warmer climate (shrinking snow cover, more frequent droughts, and extended low-flow periods in summer). The magnitude of temperature-driven trends in the future are generally projected to be higher under the Special Report on Emission Scenarios (SRES) mid-high (A2) and higher (A1FI) emissions scenarios than under the lower (B1) scenario. These results provide confidence regarding the direction of many regional climate trends, and highlight the fundamental role of future emissions in determining the potential magnitude of changes we can expect over the coming century.


Streamflow Winter Precipitation Gulf Stream Snow Water Equivalence Variable Infiltration Capacity 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



This manuscript benefited greatly from comments and suggestions by Dan Cayan and Chester Zenone (USGS), and two anonymous reviewers. We acknowledge the international modeling groups for providing their data for analysis, the Program for Climate Model Diagnosis and Intercomparison (PCMDI) for collecting and archiving the model output, the JSC/CLIVAR Working Group on Coupled Modeling (WGCM) and their Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP) and Climate Simulation Panel for organizing the model output analysis activity, and the IPCC WG1 TSU for technical support. The IPCC Data Archive at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory is supported by the Office of Science, US Department of Energy. We gratefully acknowledge the Union of Concerned Scientists, who catalyzed this research as the first stage of a forthcoming Northeast Climate Impacts Assessment Report. Contributions to this study were as follows: synthesis and manuscript preparation, model-simulated temperature and precipitation analysis, growing season analysis, data provision for hydrological and biometerological analyses (Hayhoe), synthesis and manuscript preparation, observed temperature and precipitation analysis (Wake), observed and model-simulated streamflow analysis (Huntington), VIC and river routing model simulations (Luo), SI and growing season analysis (Schwartz), VIC data analysis for terrestrial hydrology, streamflow, drought and snow (Sheffield), hydrologic analysis and support (Wood), precipitation and temperature extremes and synthesis (Anderson), SST and drought analysis (Bradbury), precipitation and temperature extremes (DeGaetano), assistance with VIC model simulations (Troy), ecosystem response analysis (Wolfe).


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Katharine Hayhoe
    • 1
    Email author
  • Cameron P. Wake
    • 2
  • Thomas G. Huntington
    • 3
  • Lifeng Luo
    • 4
  • Mark D. Schwartz
    • 5
  • Justin Sheffield
    • 4
  • Eric Wood
    • 4
  • Bruce Anderson
    • 6
  • James Bradbury
    • 7
  • Art DeGaetano
    • 8
  • Tara J. Troy
    • 4
  • David Wolfe
    • 9
  1. 1.Department of GeosciencesTexas Tech UniversityLubbockUSA
  2. 2.Institute for the Study of Earth, Oceans, and SpaceUniversity of New HampshireDurhamUSA
  3. 3.US Geological SurveyAugustaUSA
  4. 4.Department of Civil and Environmental EngineeringPrinceton UniversityPrincetonUSA
  5. 5.Department of GeographyUniversity of Wisconsin-MilwaukeeMilwaukeeUSA
  6. 6.Department of Geography and EnvironmentBoston UniversityBostonUSA
  7. 7.Department of Geosciences, Climate System Research CenterUniversity of MassachusettsAmherstUSA
  8. 8.Northeast Regional Climate Center, Department of Earth and Atmospheric SciencesCornell UniversityIthacaUSA
  9. 9.Department of HorticultureCornell UniversityIthacaUSA

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