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Fragmented patterns of flood change across the United States

October 1, 2016

Trends in the peak magnitude, frequency, duration, and volume of frequent floods (floods occurring at an average of two events per year relative to a base period) across the United States show large changes; however, few trends are found to be statistically significant. The multidimensional behavior of flood change across the United States can be described by four distinct groups, with streamgages experiencing (1) minimal change, (2) increasing frequency, (3) decreasing frequency, or (4) increases in all flood properties. Yet group membership shows only weak geographic cohesion. Lack of geographic cohesion is further demonstrated by weak correlations between the temporal patterns of flood change and large-scale climate indices. These findings reveal a complex, fragmented pattern of flood change that, therefore, clouds the ability to make meaningful generalizations about flood change across the United States.

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