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Influences of North Atlantic climate variability on low-flows in the Connecticut River Basin

TitleInfluences of North Atlantic climate variability on low-flows in the Connecticut River Basin
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2011
AuthorsSteinschneider S, Brown C
JournalJournal of Hydrology
Start Page212
Date Published10/2011
KeywordsConnecticut River, East coast pressure trough, Forecasting, Hydroclimate, North Atlantic Oscillation, North Atlantic Tripole

Connections between summertime, ecologically relevant low-flow indicators and both winter and spring climate phenomena are explored for the Connecticut River Basin, with an emphasis on assessing forecast potential. Low-flow streamflow statistics deemed important for ecological health, including minimum 1-day mean flows, minimum 7-day mean flows, and monthly streamflow averages from June to September, are derived from 61 years of continuous, daily streamflow data at 15 United States Geological Survey streamflow gauging stations across the basin. Relationships between the ecological flow indicators with leading sea-surface temperature and sea-level pressure are investigated using correlation and composite analysis. Results suggest lagged relationships of up to 5 months between summer streamflow and the wintertime North Atlantic Oscillation, springtime east coast pressure trough, and springtime North Atlantic Tripole. These climate states have been linked to shifts between zonal and meridonal airflow as well as sea-surface temperature anomalies off the coast of the eastern US, both of which have implications for the movement of moisture systems over the study region. This study suggests that residual influences on airflow and sea-surface temperature persist into the summer following these earlier climate states, influencing low-flow hydrology in the region. As eco-hydrologic flow targets often conflict with other stakeholder objectives within a watershed, reservoir operators may utilize such lagged teleconnection patterns to predict annual low-flow characteristics in the region and help negotiate tradeoffs between traditional water management objectives and those emphasizing ecological conservation.