Mar 9, 2016

Increasing influence of air temperature on upper Colorado River streamflow

Connie A. Woodhouse, Gregory T. Pederson, Kiyomi Morino, Stephanie A. McAfee, Gregory J. McCabe
Geophysical Research Letters
  • Examines the influence of precipitation, temperature, and antecedent soil moisture on upper Colorado River basin (UCRB) water year streamflow over the past century
  • States that while cool season precipitation explains most of the variability in annual flows, temperature appears to be highly influential under certain conditions, with the role of antecedent fall soil moisture less clear
  • Finds that in both wet and dry years, when flow is substantially different than expected given precipitation, these factors can modulate the dominant precipitation influence on streamflow
  • Finds that different combinations of temperature, precipitation, and soil moisture can result in flow deficits of similar magnitude, but recent droughts have been amplified by warmer temperatures that exacerbate the effects of relatively modest precipitation deficits
  • Finds that since 1988, a marked increase in the frequency of warm years with lower flows than expected, given precipitation, suggests continued warming temperatures will be an increasingly important influence in reducing future UCRB water supplies