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Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Long-term hydroclimatic change in the U.S. Rocky Mountain Region: Implications for ecosystems and water resources
by Pederson, Gregory Thomas, Ph.D., The University of Arizona, 2010, 158; 3412597
Abstract (Summary)

Both natural and anthropogenic climate change are driven by forcings that interact and result in hydroclimatic changes that alter ecosystems and natural resources at different temporal and spatial scales. Accordingly, changes within regions (i.e. individual points to large watersheds) may differ from patterns observed at sub-continental to global scales, thus necessitating the generation of point- to region-specific, cross-scale hydroclimatic data to elucidate important drivers of observed changes, and provide information at scales relevant to resource managers. Herein, we use the Northern U.S. Rocky Mountains as a study region to explore (1) the covariability between observed hydrologic and climatic changes, (2) the nature of changes occurring at the scale of days to decades, and (3) the ocean-atmosphere teleconnections operating at continental- to hemispheric-scales underlying the observed regional patterns of hydroclimatic variability. We then expand the scope of study to include the entire central North American Cordillera to investigate changes in winter precipitation (i.e. snowpack) spanning the last millennia+, with a focus on the spatial and temporal coherence of events from the medieval climatic anomaly to present. To accomplish this we utilize the full suite of hydroclimatic observational records in conjunction with proxy records of snowpack derived from a distributed network of tree-ring chronologies.

Results from observational records in the Northern Rockies show important changes have occurred in the frequency and means of biophysically important temperature thresholds, and that recent changes appear greater in magnitude at the mid-to high-elevations. These changes, coupled with interannual- to interdecadal-scale moisture variability driven by ocean-atmosphere teleconnections, are shown to be strong controls on the timing and amount of regional snowpack and streamflow. Across the cordillera, tree-ring based records of snowpack show that before 1950, the region exhibited substantial inter-basin variability in snowpack, even during prolonged droughts and pluvials, marked by a predominant north-south dipole associated with Pacific variability. Snowpack was unusually low in the Northern Rocky Mountains for much of the 20th century and over the entire cordillera since the 1980s; heralding a new era of snowpack declines entrained across all major headwaters in western North America.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Graumlich, Lisa J.
Commitee: Betancourt, Julio L., Fagre, Daniel B., Gray, Stephen T., Woodhouse, Connie A.
School: The University of Arizona
Department: Natural Resources
School Location: United States -- Arizona
Source: DAI-B 71/08, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Climate Change, Natural Resource Management, Water Resource Management
Keywords: Climate change, Paleoclimate, Snow water equivalent, Streamflow, Tree-rings, Water resources
Publication Number: 3412597
ISBN: 978-1-124-11457-6
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