Summer streamflow is a vital water resource for municipal and domestic water supplies, irrigation, salmonid habitat, recreation, and water-related ecosystem services in the Pacific Northwest (PNW) in the United States. This study detects significant negative trends in September absolute streamflow in a majority of 68 stream-gauging stations located on unregulated streams in the PNW from 1958 to 2008. The proportion of March streamflow to annual streamflow increases in most stations over 1,000 m elevation, with a baseflow index of less than 50, while absolute March streamflow does not increase in most stations. The declining trends of September absolute streamflow are strongly associated with seven-day low flow, January–March maximum temperature trends, and the size of the basin (19–7,260 km2), while the increasing trends of the fraction of March streamflow are associated with elevation, April 1 snow water equivalent, March precipitation, center timing of streamflow, and October–December minimum temperature trends. Compared with ordinary least squares (OLS) estimated regression models, spatial error regression and geographically weighted regression (GWR) models effectively remove spatial autocorrelation in residuals. The GWR model results show spatial gradients of local R 2 values with consistently higher local R 2 values in the northern Cascades. This finding illustrates that different hydrologic landscape factors, such as geology and seasonal distribution of precipitation, also influence streamflow trends in the PNW. In addition, our spatial analysis model results show that considering various geographic factors help clarify the dynamics of streamflow trends over a large geographical area, supporting a spatial analysis approach over aspatial OLS-estimated regression models for predicting streamflow trends. Results indicate that transitional rain–snow surface water-dominated basins are likely to have reduced summer streamflow under warming scenarios. Consequently, a better understanding of the relationships among summer streamflow, precipitation, snowmelt, elevation, and geology can help water managers predict the response of regional summer streamflow to global warming.
Additional publication details
Spatial patterns of March and September streamflow trends in Pacific Northwest Streams, 1958-2008