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By analyzing centuries-old growth rings from trees in the Intermountain West, researchers at Utah State University are extracting data about monthly streamflow trends from periods long before the early 1900s when recorded observations began.
Their findings were published Jan. 6 in the Journal of Hydrology and, for the first time, show that monthly streamflow data can be reconstructed from annual tree-ring chronologies -- some of which date back to the 1400s.
Rings - Flow - Years - Observations - Trees
"By linking tree rings and flow during the past 100 years when we have recorded observations, we can use trees as a tool for measuring flow long before there were gauges on the rivers," said USU's Dr. James Stagge, a hydrologist and civil engineer who led the research. "Our study takes this one step further and uses different tree species and locations to reconstruct monthly flow, rather than annual flow."
Knowing monthly streamflow, the authors explain, is key to making better-informed decisions about water use and management. In Utah and around the world, populations in arid climates depend on seasonal and often inconsistent water supplies for agriculture and urban use.
Data - Point - Year - Picture - Co-author
"One data point per year gives a very limited picture," said co-author Dr. David Rosenberg, an associate professor of civil and environmental engineering at USU. "Decisions...
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