It is important to monitor hydrologic systems in the United States that could change dramatically over the short term as a result of climate change. Many ecological effects of climate change can be understood only if hydrologic data networks are in place. Because of its humid, temperate climate and its substantial annual snowpack, Maine's seasonal water cycle is sensitive to air temperature changes (Hodgkins and others, 2003). Monitoring of relevant hydrologic data would provide important baseline information against which future climate change can be measured.
A series of recent investigations by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) has documented changes in several components of the water cycle, including earlier snowmelt runoff in Maine during the last 30 to 40 years (Hodgkins and others, 2003), earlier lake- and river-ice breakups (Hodgkins and others, 2002; Hodgkins and others, 2005), and a denser and thinner late-winter snowpack (Hodgkins and Dudley, 2006). Snowmelt runoff timing was measured as the date, each year, by which half of the total winter-spring streamflow passed a streamflow-gaging station. Historical snowmelt runoff timing for the Piscataquis River in central Maine is shown in figure 1 as an example.
Results of climate projections input to hydrologic models indicate that hydrologic trends, such as earlier spring snowmelt runoff, are expected to continue into the future (Hayhoe and others, 2007). These trends could affect species at the southern edge of their range in Maine, such as Atlantic salmon and Canada lynx, and may also affect availability of water for human use. This fact sheet describes the framework of a hydrologic climate-response program that would improve understanding of the effects of future climate change in Maine.
Additional publication details
USGS Numbered Series
Framework for a U.S. Geological Survey Hydrologic Climate-Response Program in Maine