Changes in the low flow regime over the eastern United States (1962–2011): variability, trends, and attributions
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We examine trends and variability in low flows over the eastern U.S. (S. Carolina to Maine) and their attribution in a changing climate. We select 149 out of 4878 USGS stations over the eastern U.S., taking into account data availability and minimal direct management. Annual 7-day low flows (Q7) are computed from the series of daily streamflow records for 1962–2011 and compared to an antecedent precipitation (AP) index calculated over the corresponding basin for each station. In general, a north–south (increasing-decreasing) dipole pattern in low flow trends is associated with trends in AP. The exception is in the southern part of the study area including Virginia and the Carolinas, where moderate increasing trends in AP may have been offset by water withdrawals and increasing potential evapotranspiration (PET) as driven by increasing temperature and vapor pressure deficit. A principal component analysis (PCA) of Q7 and AP indicates that the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) and Pacific North America (PNA) pattern show statistically significant correlations for Q7 at 1 and 2 month lead time, respectively, via large-scale pressure patterns. Our findings suggest that the inter-annual variability of low flows has increased due to significant anti-correlation between the NAO and PNA during recent decades, and the future risk of low flow extremes may be further enhanced with temperature driven increases in PET and persistence of the multi-decadal relationship between NAO and PNA.
KeywordsNorth Atlantic Oscillation United States Geological Survey Hydrological Drought Tropical North Atlantic Antecedent Precipitation
This work was supported by the USGS (G11AP20215) and NOAA (NA11OAR4310097). The authors would like to thank Dr. Sara Sadri and Dr. Joshua Roundy for conducting the Pettit test and extracting the corresponding basin masks to the 149 stations. The authors acknowledge the TIGRESS high performance computer center at Princeton University.
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