AN ORGANIZED SIGNAL IN SNOWMELT RUNOFF OVER THE WESTERN UNITED STATES1

Authors

  • D. H. Peterson,

    1. Respectively, Oceanographers, U.S. Geological Survey, 345 Middlefleld Road, MS 496, Bldg. 15, Menlo Park, California 94025; and Hydrologist, Oceanographer, and Climatologist, U.S. Geological Survey, Scripps Institution of Oceanography (USGS/Sb), 8605 La Jolla Shores Drive, La Jolla, California 92037 (E-Mail/Peterson: dhpete@usgs.gov).
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  • R. E. Smith,

    1. Respectively, Oceanographers, U.S. Geological Survey, 345 Middlefleld Road, MS 496, Bldg. 15, Menlo Park, California 94025; and Hydrologist, Oceanographer, and Climatologist, U.S. Geological Survey, Scripps Institution of Oceanography (USGS/Sb), 8605 La Jolla Shores Drive, La Jolla, California 92037 (E-Mail/Peterson: dhpete@usgs.gov).
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  • M. D. Dettinger,

    1. Respectively, Oceanographers, U.S. Geological Survey, 345 Middlefleld Road, MS 496, Bldg. 15, Menlo Park, California 94025; and Hydrologist, Oceanographer, and Climatologist, U.S. Geological Survey, Scripps Institution of Oceanography (USGS/Sb), 8605 La Jolla Shores Drive, La Jolla, California 92037 (E-Mail/Peterson: dhpete@usgs.gov).
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  • D. R. Cayan,

    1. Respectively, Oceanographers, U.S. Geological Survey, 345 Middlefleld Road, MS 496, Bldg. 15, Menlo Park, California 94025; and Hydrologist, Oceanographer, and Climatologist, U.S. Geological Survey, Scripps Institution of Oceanography (USGS/Sb), 8605 La Jolla Shores Drive, La Jolla, California 92037 (E-Mail/Peterson: dhpete@usgs.gov).
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  • L. Riddle

    1. Respectively, Oceanographers, U.S. Geological Survey, 345 Middlefleld Road, MS 496, Bldg. 15, Menlo Park, California 94025; and Hydrologist, Oceanographer, and Climatologist, U.S. Geological Survey, Scripps Institution of Oceanography (USGS/Sb), 8605 La Jolla Shores Drive, La Jolla, California 92037 (E-Mail/Peterson: dhpete@usgs.gov).
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  • 1

    Paper No. 99159 of the Journal of the American Water Resources Association.Discussions are open until December 1, 2000.

Abstract

ABSTRACT: Daily-to-weekly discharge during the snowmelt season is highly correlated among river basins in the upper elevations of the central and southern Sierra Nevada (Carson, Walker, Tuolumne, Merced, San Joaquin, Kings, and Kern Rivers). In many cases, the upper Sierra Nevada watershed operates in a single mode (with varying catchment amplitudes). In some years, with appropriate lags, this mode extends to distant mountains. A reason for this coherence is the broad scale nature of synoptic features in atmospheric circulation, which provide anomalous insolation and temperature forcing that span a large region, sometimes the entire western U.S. These correlations may fall off dramatically, however, in dry years when the snowpack is spatially patchy.

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