The University of Arizona

The Influence of Climate on Lower Colorado Streamflow Variability: Present, Past, and Future | CLIMAS

The Influence of Climate on Lower Colorado Streamflow Variability: Present, Past, and Future

The Influence of Climate on Lower Colorado Streamflow Variability: Present, Past, and Future

CLIMAS Lead:  

The overarching goal of this study is to evaluate the seasonal climatic components that control surface water supplies in the lower Colorado basin, with a specific focus on the influence of temperature on annual streamflow in recent decades. The project is designed to investigate questions and produce scientific results that are meaningful and useful for decision makers in the LCRB. To achieve that goal, the project team will identify interested resource management partners in the LCRB who would like to help in shaping a research agenda that addresses climatic controls on surface water supplies in the lower basin in a way that is relevant to resource management. We will begin a dialogue in late summer 2018 with a small group (10—12) of potential research partners to identify research questions and develop a collaborative project team that is interested in being engaged at least through the life of the project and potentially beyond.

Warming temperatures are an increasingly important control on streamflow and surface water supplies. This has been demonstrated in the upper Colorado River basin, but studies have not yet investigated the impact of temperatures on the streamflow in the lower Colorado River basin (LCRB). In the three major tributaries of the LCRB—the Salt, Verde, and Gila Rivers—snow deposition areas are at lower elevations than in the upper Colorado River basin, and temperature could play a more significant role in mediating how much precipitation ends up as streamflow. An additional factor that has not been fully investigated is the role of the monsoon’s contribution to streamflow, and how warming temperatures may affect that contribution.