The Colorado River's Water Supply is Predictable Owing to Long-term Ocean Memory

Lynnette Harris

10/09/2020

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Colorado River

A team of scientists at Utah State University has developed a new tool to forecast drought and water flow in the Colorado River several years in advance. Although the river’s headwaters are in landlocked Wyoming and Colorado, water levels are linked to sea surface temperatures in parts of the Pacific and Atlantic oceans and the water’s long-term ocean memory. The group’s paper, “Colorado River water supply is predictable on multi-year timescales owing to long-term ocean memory” was published October 9 by Communications Earth and Environment, an open-access journal from Nature Research.

The Colorado River is the most important water resource in the semi-arid western United States and faces growing demand from users in California, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado and Utah. Because water shortages in the Colorado River impact energy production, food and drinking water security, forestry and tourism, tools to predict drought and low water levels could inform management decisions that affect millions of people.

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https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2020-10/usu-tcr100820.php