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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Variations in Precipitation in the Great Plains: the Past 100 Years

Authors
item Garbrecht, Jurgen
item Schneider, Jeanne

Submitted to: Proceedings of the Water and the Future of Kansas Conference
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: March 11, 2003
Publication Date: March 11, 2003
Citation: GARBRECHT, J.D., SCHNEIDER, J.M. VARIATIONS IN PRECIPITATION IN THE GREAT PLAINS: THE PAST 100 YEARS. Proceedings of the Water and the Future of Kansas Conference. 2003. p. 14.

Technical Abstract: The variable nature of our climate has been reemphasized during the recent global change debate. Climate variations lasting many years (decade-scale) lead to cumulative impacts that have the potential to greatly surpass impacts of inter-annual variations. In this study, changes in average annual and seasonal precipitation over recent 30, 10 and 5 year periods are identified, precipitation time series of selected climate divisions and stations in the Great Plains analyzed, and the impact of decade-scale precipitation variations on streamflow illustrated for watersheds in Nebraska, Kansas and Oklahoma. Precipitation for the 1971-2000, 1991-2000 and 1996-2000 periods were found to be higher than the 1895-2002 average precipitation for many regions of the conterminous United States. In the Great Plains and Southwest, fall and winter seasons captured most of the increase in precipitation, whereas the West Coast saw the greatest relative increase during summer. Time series of smoothed annual precipitation showed that for many climate divisions in the northern and central Great Plains the precipitation increase over the last two to three decades of the 20th century was the greatest and longest on record. Precipitation time series for four Kansas weather stations with historical records as far back as the 1830's showed that decade-scale variations of similar size existed in the past. A correlation analysis between decade-scale precipitation and streamflow variations for a number of watersheds in Nebraska, Kansas and Oklahoma showed streamflow to be highly correlated and sensitive to precipitation. Based on these findings, it was inferred that decade-long variations in precipitation should be important considerations in strategic water resources planning and management.

Last Modified: 9/10/2014
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