Analysis of drought determinants for the Colorado River Basin
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Ongoing drought in the Colorado River Basin, unprecedented urban growth in the watershed, and numerical model simulations showing higher temperatures and lower precipitation totals in the future have all combined to heighten interest in drought in this region. In this investigation, we use principal components analysis (PCA) to independently assess the influence of various teleconnections on Basin-wide and sub-regional winter season Palmer Hydrological Drought Index (PHDI) and precipitation variations in the Basin. We find that the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO) explains more variance in PHDI than El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO), the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation (AMO), and the planetary temperature combined for the Basin as a whole. When rotated PCA is used to separate the Basin into two regions, the lower portion of the Basin is similar to the Basin as a whole while the upper portion, which contains the high-elevation locations important to hydrologic yield for the watershed, demonstrates poorly defined relationships with the teleconnections. The PHDI for the two portions of the Basin are shown to have been out of synch for much of the twentieth century. In general, teleconnection indices account for 19% of the variance in PHDI leaving large uncertainties in drought forecasting.
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