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Climate change and changes in sediment transport capacity in the Colorado Plateau, USA

January 1, 2005

Information is presented on changes in the sediment transport capacity of streams of the Colorado Plateau region of the United States. The changes in transport capacity may be due to changes in climate. Changes in the ability of three rivers in the Colorado Plateau to transport sediment were investigated (Paria River at Lees Ferry, Arizona; Sevier River at Hatch, Utah; and Little Colorado at Woodruff, Arizona) using an index to sediment transport potential (or capacity) of the rivers. The index is called a Sediment Transport Capacity Index (STCI). The parameters in the index are calibrated to measured sediment concentrations. Other investigators have postulated that there have been three climate regimes in the Colorado Plateau during the 20th century: 1905-1941, 1942-1977 and 1978-1998. Time series analyses of the STCI showed reasonably clearly that there was a change in the climate about 1941 and a high probability of a change about 1923-1929. The STCI time series for the Sevier River had the expected pattern because the STCI increased in the years following 1997 nearly to the pre-1942 values from lower 1942-1977 values. The Little Colorado River showed a similar pattern, but not nearly to the magnitude suggested by the change in precipitation. The STCI for the Paria River essentially did not change. Changes in sediment transport also are investigated in the lower San Juan River where alterations in the sediment balance of the river may be due to variations in the character of summer precipitation.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2005
Title Climate change and changes in sediment transport capacity in the Colorado Plateau, USA
Authors R.T. Milhous
Publication Type Conference Paper
Publication Subtype Conference Paper
Index ID 70029182
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse