Patterns of regional hydroclimatic shifts: An analysis of changing hydrologic regimes

E. J. Coopersmith, B. S. Minsker, M. Sivapalan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Temporal shifts in precipitation and runoff regime curves appear throughout the continental United States, but differ from region to region. This paper explores these regime shifts by building upon a hydroclimatic classification system that partitions the United States into clusters of similarly behaved catchments using four simple hydroclimatic indicators. Hydroclimate data from over four hundred catchments over a 55 year period (belonging to the MOPEX data set) are analyzed to reveal how the indicators have shifted before and after 1970, before and after 1975, and before and after 1980. Statistically significant hydroclimatic changes in these indicators are explored qualitatively, suggesting which catchments today might resemble other catchments tomorrow. Thus, a preview of current locations in one class under future conditions is provided by observing existing locations of another class. The classification system structure enables organization of these data, allowing patterns of regime change to emerge without highly specified models at each individual site. Regional analyses explore changes in mean seasonal precipitation/runoff regimes, including shifts in the daily variability of precipitation and runoff. Additionally, changes in regime curves of minimum and maximum precipitation/runoff observations are analyzed and discussed. Results indicate that after 1980, classifications typically found in the southeastern quarter of the United States have expanded northward and westward. Regionally, the Midwest and Rocky Mountains seem to demonstrate more frequent, but less intense storms after 1980, while southeastern catchments receive much less water in the form of precipitation and runoff than in previous years. Key Points The effects of hydroclimatic change are present in every regional cluster These impacts manifest differently by region A preview of future conditions may already exist elsewhere

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1960-1983
Number of pages24
JournalWater Resources Research
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2014


  • hydroclimatology
  • hydrologic classification
  • regime curves
  • regional climate change

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Water Science and Technology


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