This study identified and examined differences in Southeast Alaskan streamflow patterns between the two most recent modes of the Pacific decadal oscillation (PDO). Identifying relationships between the PDO and specific regional phenomena is important for understanding climate variability, interpreting historical hydrological variability, and improving water-resources forecasting. Stream discharge data from six watersheds in Southeast Alaska were divided into cold-PDO (1947-1976) and warm-PDO (1977-1998) subsets. For all watersheds, the average annual streamflows during cold-PDO years were not significantly different from warm-PDO years. Monthly and seasonal discharges, however, did differ significantly between the two subsets, with the warm-PDO winter flows being typically higher than the cold-PDO winter flows and the warm-PDO summer flows being typically lower than the cold-PDO flows. These results were consistent with and driven by observed temperature and snowfall patterns for the region. During warm-PDO winters, precipitation fell as rain and ran-off immediately, causing higher than normal winter streamflow. During cold-PDO winters, precipitation was stored as snow and ran off during the summer snowmelt, creating greater summer streamflows. The Mendenhall River was unique in that it experienced higher flows for all seasons during the warm-PDO relative to the cold-PDO. The large amount of Mendenhall River discharge caused by glacial melt during warm-PDO summers offset any flow reduction caused by lack of snow accumulation during warm-PDO winters. The effect of the PDO on Southeast Alaskan watersheds differs from other regions of the Pacific Coast of North America in that monthly/seasonal discharge patterns changed dramatically with the switch in PDO modes but annual discharge did not. ?? 2002 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.
Additional publication details
Linking the pacific decadal oscillation to seasonal stream discharge patterns in Southeast Alaska