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Streamflow Responses to Climate Change: Analysis of Hydrologic Indicators in a New York City Water Supply Watershed

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  • Paper No. JAWRA-12-0094-P of the Journal of the American Water Resources Association (JAWRA).
  • Discussions are open until six months from print publication.

Abstract

Recent works have indicated that climate change in the northeastern United States is already being observed in the form of shorter winters, higher annual average air temperature, and more frequent extreme heat and precipitation events. These changes could have profound effects on aquatic ecosystems, and the implications of such changes are less understood. The objective of this study was to examine how future changes in precipitation and temperature translate into changes in streamflow using a physically based semidistributed model, and subsequently how changes in streamflow could potentially impact stream ecology. Streamflow parameters were examined in a New York City water supply watershed for changes from model-simulated baseline conditions to future climate scenarios (2081-2100) for ecologically relevant factors of streamflow using the Indicators of Hydrologic Alterations tool. Results indicate that earlier snowmelt and reduced snowpack advance the timing and increase the magnitude of discharge in the winter and early spring (November-March) and greatly decrease monthly streamflow later in the spring in April. Both the rise and fall rates of the hydrograph will increase resulting in increased flashiness and flow reversals primarily due to increased pulses during winter seasons. These shifts in timing of peak flows, changes in seasonal flow regimes, and changes in the magnitudes of low flow can all influence aquatic organisms and have the potential to impact stream ecology.

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