Increasing influence of air temperature on upper Colorado River streamflow

Geophysical Research Letters
By: , and 



This empirical study examines the influence of precipitation, temperature, and antecedent soil moisture on upper Colorado River basin (UCRB) water year streamflow over the past century. 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. 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. 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. 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.

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Increasing influence of air temperature on upper Colorado River streamflow
Series title Geophysical Research Letters
DOI 10.1002/2015GL067613
Volume 43
Issue 5
Year Published 2016
Language English
Publisher American Geophysical Union
Contributing office(s) Northern Rocky Mountain Science Center
Description 8 p.
First page 2174
Last page 2181
Online Only (Y/N) N
Additional Online Files (Y/N) N
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