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Efficiency of the Summer Monsoon in Generating Streamflow within a Seasonally Snow-Dominated Headwater Basin of the Colorado River
  • Rosemary W.H. Carroll,
  • David J Gochis,
  • Kenneth Hurst Williams
Rosemary W.H. Carroll
Desert Research Institute

Corresponding Author:rosemary.carroll@dri.edu

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David J Gochis
National Center for Atmospheric Research (UCAR)
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Kenneth Hurst Williams
Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (DOE)
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The North American Monsoon occurs July-September bringing significant rainfall to Colorado River headwater basins. This rain may buffer streamflow deficiencies caused by reductions in snow accumulation. Using a data-modeling framework, we explore the importance of monsoon rain in streamflow generation over historic conditions in an alpine basin. Annually, monsoon rain contributes 18{plus minus}7% water inputs, generates 10{plus minus}6% streamflow and increases water yield 3{plus minus}2% the following year. The bulk of rain supports evapotranspiration in lower subalpine forests. However, rains have the potential to produce appreciable streamflow at higher elevations where soil storage, forest cover and aridity are low; and rebounds late season streamflow 64{plus minus}13% from simulated reductions in snowpack as a function of monsoon strength. Interannual variability in monsoon efficiency to generate streamflow declines with low snowpack and high aridity, implying the ability of monsoons to replenish streamflow in a warmer future with less snow accumulation will diminish.
16 Dec 2020Published in Geophysical Research Letters volume 47 issue 23. 10.1029/2020GL090856