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Spatial and temporal patterns of low streamflow and precipitation changes in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed

October 26, 2020

Spatial and temporal patterns in low streamflows were investigated for 183 streamgages located in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed for the period 1939–2013. Metrics that represent different aspects of the frequency and magnitude of low streamflows were examined for trends: (1) the annual time series of seven‐day average minimum streamflow, (2) the scaled average deficit at or below the 2% mean daily streamflow value relative to a base period between 1939 and 1970, and (3) the annual number of days below the 2% threshold. Trends in these statistics showed spatial cohesion, with increasing low streamflow volume at streamgages located in the northern uplands of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed and decreasing low streamflow volume at streamgages in the southern part of the watershed. For a small subset of streamgages (12%), conflicting trend patterns were observed between the seven‐day average minimum streamflow and the below‐threshold time series and these appear to be related to upstream diversions or the influence of reservoir‐influenced streamflows in their contributing watersheds. Using multivariate classification techniques, mean annual precipitation and fraction of precipitation falling as snow appear to be broad controls of increasing and decreasing low‐flow trends. Further investigation of seasonal precipitation patterns shows summer rainfall patterns, driven by the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation, as the main driver of low streamflows in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed.

Publication Year 2021
Title Spatial and temporal patterns of low streamflow and precipitation changes in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed
DOI 10.1111/1752-1688.12892
Authors Brandon J. Fleming, Stacey A. Archfield, Robert M. Hirsch, Julie E. Kiang, David M. Wolock
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Journal of the American Water Resources Association
Index ID 70217748
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Maryland-Delaware-District of Columbia Water Science Center