Identification of Pacific Ocean sea surface temperature influences of upper Colorado River basin snowpack

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Water Resources Research






Given the importance of Upper Colorado River Basin (UCRB) snowpack as the primary driver of streamflow (water supply) for the southwestern United States, the identification of Pacific Ocean climatic drivers (e.g., sea surface temperature (SST) variability) may prove valuable in long-lead-time forecasting of snowpack in this critical region. Previous research efforts have identified El Ni oSouthern Oscillation (ENSO) and Pacific Decadel Oscillation (PDO) as the main drivers for western U.S. snowpack, but these drivers have limited influence on regional (Utah and Colorado) UCRB snowpack. The current research applies for the first time the Singular Value Decomposition (SVD) statistical method to Pacific Ocean SSTs and continental U.S. snowpack to identify the primary Pacific Ocean climatic driver of UCRB snowpack. The use of SSTs eliminates any bias as to specific climate signals. The second mode of SVD identified a UCRB snowpack region (Colorado and Utah) and a corresponding Pacific Ocean SST region. A non-ENSO/non-PDO Pacific Ocean SST region between 34N24S and 150E160W was identified as being the primary driver of UCRB snowpack. To confirm the UCRB snowpack results, data from 13 unimpaired (or naturalized) streamflow gages in Colorado and Utah were used to evaluate and support the snowpack findings. Finally, a new and beneficial data set (western U.S. 1 March, 1 April, and 1 May snow water equivalent) was developed, which may be used in future research efforts.


Climatology; Long-range weather forecasting; North America – Colorado River Watershed; Pacific Ocean; Runoff – Forecasting; Snow; Streamflow – Forecasting; Water supply – Forecasting


Climate | Environmental Sciences | Oceanography | Other Oceanography and Atmospheric Sciences and Meteorology | Water Resource Management




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