Multi-Scale Investigation of a Unique Hydroclimatic Transition Zone in the Western U.S.A.

EPA Grant Number: F6C20121
Title: Multi-Scale Investigation of a Unique Hydroclimatic Transition Zone in the Western U.S.A.
Investigators: Wise, Erika Kristine
Institution: University of Arizona
EPA Project Officer: Michaud, Jayne
Project Period: August 1, 2006 through July 31, 2009
Project Amount: $108,838
RFA: STAR Graduate Fellowships (2006) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Academic Fellowships , Fellowship - Geography , Global Climate Change , Ecological Indicators/Assessment/Restoration


The purpose of this study is to increase understanding of how climate variability interacts with water supply availability in the western United States. This study will be conducted in a region of the Rocky Mountains containing an important hydroclimatic transition zone that has significant implications for Western water supply. Linking information obtained from tree-ring based streamflow reconstructions to climatic conditions and global circulation patterns will provide a better understanding of the causes of low- and high-flow years within and between water basins – a vital component of mitigating drought and flood impacts.


I will assess hydroclimatic variability at three nested scales. First, I will conduct watershed-scale spatial modeling of precipitation and streamflow and tree-ring based climate reconstruction of two near-by sites on opposite sides of the continental divide. Next, I will incorporate previously-collected data for a regional-scale examination of hydroclimatic relationships at the boundary between the Intermountain and Rocky Mountain West. The understanding of controlling processes gained through these first two steps will then be used to link West-wide circulation patterns to local hydrologic responses. This research will be accomplished through the integration of Geographic Information Systems and spatial analysis tools with climatology and tree-ring techniques.

Expected Results:

The climatically-sensitive area examined in this study should provide insight into global change issues, such as whether the current climate is within the range of natural climate variability, if changing tree growth-climate relationships are linked to an earlier onset of spring, and how broader atmospheric circulation patterns vary over space and time in the West.

Supplemental Keywords:

climate variability, dendrochronology, tree rings, continental divide, teleconnections, El Niño, ENSO, precipitation, streamflow reconstruction, dendroclimatology, drought, GIS, western United States, hydroclimatic, spatial analysis, synoptic climatology,, RFA, Scientific Discipline, Air, climate change, Air Pollution Effects, Environmental Monitoring, Atmosphere, ecosystem models, water resources, streamflow sensitivity, modeling, climate models, climate variability, Global Climate Change

Progress and Final Reports:

  • 2007
  • 2008
  • Final