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Past droughts geographically widespread in the West, according to tree-ring data

of the second phase will likely be available in the summer of 2007.

Key project conclusions from the tree-ring study:

  • Extreme events, either low flows or high flows, tended to occur simultaneously in the Upper Colorado and Salt/Verde river basins;

  • Such synchronous low-flow and high-flow events tended to cluster in time;

  • The longest continuous period when both basins had extreme low-flow years was three years;

  • Within any four-year period, having either high flow or low flow for two consecutive years occurred more than 20 percent of the time;

  • For the Salt/Verde river basin, the recent drought is similar to that experienced in the 1950s;

  • The tree-ring record reveals that between 1200 and 1903, the Salt/Verde river basin had at least eight droughts as severe as the 1950s drought.

Ester said the findings will help devise an assessment tool for implementing the project's results into operational water supply decision-making.

Hirschboeck said the study's findings offered some revelations for the Laboratory of Tree-Ring Research's scientists. "Dave and I were surprised that the two distant basins, the Upper Colorado and the Salt/Verde, were so much in synch during periods of extremely high or extremely low flow." She added, "The recent joint drought, while severe, is not unprecedented when compared to those in the previous five centuries."

The findings of the first phase are being shared with representatives of various federal, state and local agencies such as the National Weather Service, U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, Arizona Department of Water Resources, Central Arizona Project and cities in the Phoenix metropolitan area.

The tree-ring study in partnership with The University of Arizona is the one of many initiatives taken by SRP in response to an ongoing drought that is in its 10th year. Even counting this past winter whe
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Source:University of Arizona


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