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Hydro-climatic drought in the Delaware River Basin

September 13, 2020

The Delaware River Basin (DRB) supplies water to approximately 15 million people and is essential to agriculture and industry. In this study, a monthly water balance model is used to compute monthly water balance components (i.e., potential evapotranspiration, actual evapotranspiration, and runoff [R]) for the DRB for the 1901 through 2015 period. Water‐year R is used to identify drought periods in the basin and seven drought periods were identified. All but one of the drought periods occurred before about 1970; after this date, precipitation increased in the DRB and droughts were infrequent. The seven droughts were largely driven by precipitation deficits, rather than by unusually warm temperatures. For six of the seven droughts, the precipitation deficits were associated with atmospheric pressure patterns that resulted in northerly wind anomalies (i.e., conditions that deviate from the long‐term mean) over the basin that indicate an anomalous flow of dry air from the North American continent into the DRB. An examination of drought events estimated from a tree ring–based reconstruction of the Palmer Drought Severity Index for the 490 through 2005 time period indicates that although there were some DRB droughts that were longer and more severe during previous centuries, the DRB droughts during 1901 through 2015 were comparable in duration and severity to most drought events during previous centuries.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2020
Title Hydro-climatic drought in the Delaware River Basin
DOI 10.1111/1752-1688.12875
Authors Gregory J. McCabe, David M. Wolock
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Journal of the American Water Resources Association
Series Number
Index ID 70218454
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization WMA - Integrated Modeling and Prediction Division

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