Upper Yellowstone River Flow and Teleconnections with Pacific Basin Climate Variability during the Past Three Centuries

Yellowstone Falls from Red Rock Point, NPS photo Upper Yellowstone River Flow and Teleconnections with Pacific Basin Climate Variability during the Past Three Centuries.
Climatic Change
July 2003, Volume 59, Issue 1-2, pp.245-262.


Lisa J. Graumlich, Michael F.J. Pisaric1, Lindsey A. Waggoner, Jeremy S. Littell2 and John C. King3
The Big Sky Institute, Montana State University, Bozeman, Montana 59717

1 Present address: Department of Geography, Carleton University, Ottawa, Canada KlS 5B6
2 Present address: College of Forest Resources, University of Washington, Seattle WA 98195
3 Present address: Lone Pine Research, Bozeman MT 59715

ABSTRACT:
Climate variability, coupled with increasing demand is raising concerns about the sustainability of water resources in the western United States. Tree-ring reconstructions of stream flow that extend the observational record by several centuries provide critical information on the short-term variability and multi-decadal trends in water resources. In this study, precipitation sensitive Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menzeisii) tree ring records are used to reconstruct annual flow of the Yellowstone River back to A.D. 1706. Linkages between precipitation in the Greater Yellowstone Region and climate variability in the Pacific basin were incorporated into our model by including indices Pacific Ocean interannual and decadal-scale climatic variability, namely the Pacific Decadal Oscillation and the Southern Oscillation. The reconstruction indicates that 20th century streamflow is not representative of flow during the previous two centuries. With the exception of the 1930s, streamflow during the 20th century exceeded average flows during the previous 200 years. The drought of the 1930s resulted in the lowest flows during the last three centuries, however, this probably does not represent a worst-case scenario for the Yellowstone as other climate reconstructions indicate more extreme droughts prior to the 18th century.

Fig. 5. Yellowstone River Flow ReconstructionFig. 5. Reconstruction of annual volume of flow for the Yellowstone River (1706-1977). Reconstructed flow (thin black line), actual flow (solid gray line), a 10-year moving average (thick black line) and 2 standard error confidence intervals (dashed gray lines) are shown.

DATA:
Download the reconstructed Upper Yellowstone River flow reconstruction from the WDC Paleo Archive.
Download Yellowstone River basin Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii) data used in this study from the International Tree Ring Data Bank:

Site Lat. (° N) Long. (° W) Elevation (m)
Yellow Mountain Ridge 45° 17' 111° 21' 2440 Chronology Ringwidth Measurements
North Fork Ridge 45° 17' 111° 21' 2440 Chronology Ringwidth Measurements
Mount Everets 44° 59' 110° 40" 2560 Chronology Ringwidth Measurements

To read or view the full study, please visit the Kluwer website.
It was published in Climatic Change, July 2003, Volume 59, Issue 1-2, pp.245-262.

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25 June 2003