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Relations between winter climatic variables and April streamflows in New England and implications for summer streamflows

Scientific Investigations Report 2012-5092

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Abstract

A period of much below normal streamflow in southern New England during April 2012 raised concerns that a long-term period of drought could evolve through late spring and summer, leading to potential water availability issues. To understand better the relations between winter climatic variables and April streamflows, April streamflows from 31 streamflow gages in New England that drain relatively natural watersheds were tested for year-to-year correlation with winter precipitation and air temperature from nearby meteorological sites. Higher winter (December through March) precipitation is associated with higher April streamflows at many gages in northern and central New England. This implies that snowpack accumulation is an important mechanism for winter water storage and subsequently important for spring streamflows in this area. Higher March air temperatures are associated with lower April streamflows at many gages in central and southern New England, likely because the majority of snowmelt runoff occurs before April in warm years. A warm March 2012 contributed to early snowmelt runoff in New England and to much below normal April streamflows in southern New England. However, no strong relation was found between historical April streamflows and late-spring or summer streamflows in New England. The lack of a strong relation implies that summer precipitation, rather than spring conditions, controls summer streamflows.

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Additional Publication Details

Publication type:
Report
Publication Subtype:
USGS Numbered Series
Title:
Relations between winter climatic variables and April streamflows in New England and implications for summer streamflows
Series title:
Scientific Investigations Report
Series number:
2012-5092
Year Published:
2012
Language:
English
Publisher:
U.S. Geological Survey
Publisher location:
Reston, VA
Contributing office(s):
Maine Water Science Center
Description:
iv, 11 p.
Country:
United States
State:
Maine;Vermont;New Hampshire;Massachusetts;Connecticut;Rhode Island