Historical changes in New York State streamflow: Attribution of temporal shifts and spatial patterns from 1961 to 2016

Robin Glas, Douglas Burns, Laura Lautz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


To better understand the effects of climate change on streamflow, the hydrologic response to both temperature and precipitation needs to be examined at the mesoscale. New York State provides a hydrologically diverse mesoscale region, where sub-regional clusters of watersheds may respond differently to changes in temperature and in seasonal precipitation rates. Connections between streamflow and climate were examined for 97 gaging stations across the state and surrounding areas, for a historical period of 56 years of daily average streamflow. Gages were grouped into clusters if their mean annual discharge rates were strongly correlated to one another. Within each cluster, sharp temporal changes in discharge, or change points, were identified. These change points clustered both spatially and by flow regime, with low, medium, and high flows increasing around 1970 for much of the state consistent with other studies in the region. A step increase in Catskill low flows in 2003 coincides with increases in summer precipitation, and is consistent with a positive correlation between summer precipitation and annual low flows. Our results support previous studies that have shown that streamflow at this mesoscale is strongly tied to precipitation, and the strength of that connection is modulated by land cover, geographic position, and seasonal moisture conditions. Across the state, the winter-spring center of volume date has moved earlier along with increasing January streamflow rates, the result of warmer winter temperatures and an increased proportion of precipitation as rain. The transition to a post-1970s pluvial period also coincided with more frequent peak over threshold flows statewide, and this wetter period has continued to the present day.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)308-323
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Hydrology
StatePublished - Jul 2019


  • Change point analysis
  • Climate change
  • Mesoscale hydrology
  • Streamflow trends

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Water Science and Technology


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