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Individual organisms are affected by various natural and anthropogenic environmental factors throughout their life history. This is reflected in the way population abundance fluctuates. Consequently, observed population dynamics are often produced by the superimposition of multiple environmental signals. This complicates the analysis of population time-series. Here, a multivariate time-series method called maximum autocorrelation factor analysis (MAFA) was used to extract underlying signals from multiple population time series data. The extracted signals were compared with environmental variables that were suspected to affect the populations. Finally, a simple multiple regression analysis was applied to the same data set, and the results from the regression analysis were compared with those from MAFA. The extracted signals with MAFA were strongly associated with the environmental variables, suggesting that they represent environmental factors. On the other hand, with the multiple regression analysis, one of the important signals was not identifiable, revealing the shortcoming of the conventional approach. MAFA summarizes data based on their lag-one autocorrelation. This allows the identification of underlying signals with a small effect size on population abundance during the observation. It also uses multiple time series collected in parallel; this enables us to effectively analyze short time series. In this study, annual spawning adult counts of Chinook salmon at various locations within the Klamath Basin, California, were analyzed.