Deep groundwater mediates streamflow response to climate warming in the Oregon Cascades

Christina Tague, Gordon Grant, Mike Farrell, Janet Choate, Anne Jefferson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

171 Scopus citations


Recent studies predict that projected climate change will lead to significant reductions in summer streamflow in the mountainous regions of the Western US. Hydrologic modeling directed at quantifying these potential changes has focused on the magnitude and timing of spring snowmelt as the key control on the spatial-temporal pattern of summer streamflow. We illustrate how spatial differences in groundwater dynamics can also play a significant role in determining streamflow responses to warming. We examine two contrasting watersheds, one located in the Western Cascades and the other in the High Cascades mountains of Oregon. We use both empirical analysis of streamflow data and physically based, spatially distributed modeling to disentangle the relative importance of multiple and interacting controls. In particular, we explore the extent to which differences in snow accumulation and melt and drainage characteristics (deep ground water vs. shallow subsurface) mediate the effect of climate change. Results show that within the Cascade Range, local variations in bedrock geology and concomitant differences in volume and seasonal fluxes of subsurface water will likely result in significant spatial variability in responses to climate forcing. Specifically, watersheds dominated by High Cascade geology will show greater absolute reductions in summer streamflow with predicted temperature increases.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)189-210
Number of pages22
JournalClimatic Change
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - Jan 2008
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Atmospheric Science


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