Five time periods between 1930 and 2002 are identified as having distinct patterns of annual minimum daily mean flows (minimum flows). Average minimum flows increased around 1970 at many streamflow-gaging stations in West Virginia. Before 1930, however, there might have been a period of minimum flows greater than any period identified between 1930 and 2002. The effects of climate variability are probably the principal causes of the differences among the five time periods.
Comparisons of selected streamflow statistics are made between values computed for the five identified time periods and values computed for the 1930-2002 interval for 15 streamflow-gaging stations. The average difference between statistics computed for the five time periods and the 1930-2002 interval decreases with increasing magnitude of the low-flow statistic. The greatest individual-station absolute difference was 582.5 percent greater for the 7-day 10-year low flow computed for 1970-1979 compared to the value computed for 1930-2002. The hydrologically based low flows indicate approximately equal or smaller absolute differences than biologically based low flows. The average 1-day 3-year biologically based low flow (1B3) and 4-day 3-year biologically based low flow (4B3) are less than the average 1-day 10-year hydrologically based low flow (1Q10) and 7-day 10-year hydrologic-based low flow (7Q10) respectively, and range between 28.5 percent less and 13.6 percent greater. Seasonally, the average difference between low-flow statistics computed for the five time periods and 1930-2002 is not consistent between magnitudes of low-flow statistics, and the greatest difference is for the summer (July 1-September 30) and fall (October 1-December 31) for the same time period as the greatest difference determined in the annual analysis. The greatest average difference between 1B3 and 4B3 compared to 1Q10 and 7Q10, respectively, is in the spring (April 1-June 30), ranging between 11.6 and 102.3 percent greater.
Statistics computed for the individual station's record period may not represent the statistics computed for the period 1930 to 2002 because (1) station records are available predominantly after about 1970 when minimum flows were greater than the average between 1930 and 2002 and (2) some short-term station records are mostly during dry periods, whereas others are mostly during wet periods. A criterion-based sampling of the individual station's record periods at stations was taken to reduce the effects of statistics computed for the entire record periods not representing the statistics computed for 1930-2002. The criterion used to sample the entire record periods is based on a comparison between the regional minimum flows and the minimum flows at the stations. Criterion-based sampling of the available record periods was superior to record-extension techniques for this study because more stations were selected and areal distribution of stations was more widespread. Principal component and correlation analyses of the minimum flows at 20 stations in or near West Virginia identify three regions of the State encompassing stations with similar patterns of minimum flows: the Lower Appalachian Plateaus, the Upper Appalachian Plateaus, and the Eastern Panhandle. All record periods of 10 years or greater between 1930 and 2002 where the average of the regional minimum flows are nearly equal to the average for 1930-2002 are determined as representative of 1930-2002. Selected statistics are presented for the longest representative record period that matches the record period for 77 stations in West Virginia and 40 stations near West Virginia. These statistics can be used to develop equations for estimating flow in ungaged stream locations.
Additional publication details
USGS Numbered Series
Low-flow analysis and selected flow statistics representative of 1930-2002 for streamflow-gaging stations in or near West Virginia