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Techniques of trend analysis for monthly water quality data

January 1, 1982

Some of the characteristics that complicate the analysis of water quality time series are non-normal distributions, seasonality, flow relatedness, missing values, values below the limit of detection, and serial correlation. Presented here are techniques that are suitable in the face of the complications listed above for the exploratory analysis of monthly water quality data for monotonie trends. The first procedure described is a nonparametric test for trend applicable to data sets with seasonality, missing values, or values reported as ‘less than’: the seasonal Kendall test. Under realistic stochastic processes (exhibiting seasonality, skewness, and serial correlation), it is robust in comparison to parametric alternatives, although neither the seasonal Kendall test nor the alternatives can be considered an exact test in the presence of serial correlation. The second procedure, the seasonal Kendall slope estimator, is an estimator of trend magnitude. It is an unbiased estimator of the slope of a linear trend and has considerably higher precision than a regression estimator where data are highly skewed but somewhat lower precision where the data are normal. The third procedure provides a means for testing for change over time in the relationship between constituent concentration and flow, thus avoiding the problem of identifying trends in water quality that are artifacts of the particular sequence of discharges observed (e.g., drought effects). In this method a flow-adjusted concentration is defined as the residual (actual minus conditional expectation) based on a regression of concentration on some function of discharge. These flow-adjusted concentrations, which may also be seasonal and non-normal, can then be tested for trend by using the seasonal Kendall test.

Publication Year 1982
Title Techniques of trend analysis for monthly water quality data
DOI 10.1029/WR018i001p00107
Authors Robert M. Hirsch, James R. Slack, Richard A. Smith
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Water Resources Research
Index ID 70011649
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse