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Scientific Investigations Report 2012–5092

Relations between Winter Climatic Variables and April Streamflows in New England and Implications for Summer Streamflows

By Glenn A. Hodgkins, Robert W. Dudley, and Luther F. Schalk

Thumbnail of and link to report PDF (1.54 MB) Abstract

A period of much below normal streamflow in southern New England during April 2012 raised concerns that a long-term period of drought could evolve through late spring and summer, leading to potential water availability issues. To understand better the relations between winter climatic variables and April streamflows, April streamflows from 31 streamflow gages in New England that drain relatively natural watersheds were tested for year-to-year correlation with winter precipitation and air temperature from nearby meteorological sites. Higher winter (December through March) precipitation is associated with higher April streamflows at many gages in northern and central New England. This implies that snowpack accumulation is an important mechanism for winter water storage and subsequently important for spring streamflows in this area. Higher March air temperatures are associated with lower April streamflows at many gages in central and southern New England, likely because the majority of snowmelt runoff occurs before April in warm years. A warm March 2012 contributed to early snowmelt runoff in New England and to much below normal April streamflows in southern New England. However, no strong relation was found between historical April streamflows and late-spring or summer streamflows in New England. The lack of a strong relation implies that summer precipitation, rather than spring conditions, controls summer streamflows.

First posted May 21, 2012

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Suggested citation:

Hodgkins, G.A., Dudley, R.W., and Schalk, L.F., 2012, Relations between winter climatic variables and April streamflows in New England and implications for summer streamflows: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2012–5092, 11 p., at http://pubs.usgs.gov/sir/2012/5092/.



Contents

Abstract

Introduction

Purpose and Scope

Influence of Precipitation and Air Temperature on Winter-Spring Streamflows

Historical Changes in Winter-Spring Hydrology

Influence of Winter-Spring Hydrology on Summer Low Streamflows

Data and Methods

Historical Relations between April Streamflows and Winter Precipitation and Temperature

Historical Relations between April Streamflows and Summer Streamflows

Perspective on April 2012 Streamflows

Acknowledgments

References Cited

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