National Research Program

Hydrologic Variability and Trends

Using long-term data records, this project is focused on two problems of importance to water resources managers. First, long-term streamflow records are being used to a) identify broad regional to national trends in floods and low-flows and relate them to possible causes (climate change, water management changes, land-cover changes, and ground-water level change) and b) determine whether there are patterns that relate to watershed size or climate characteristics. It is often stated in the popular press and in official publications on global climate change that we can expect increased variability, including larger and/or more frequent floods, and deeper and longer droughts, as a result of greenhouse warming. This research will use the long-term historical records of streamflow at USGS streamgages to explore the empirical evidence for such statements. The second area of research is related to long-term changes in nutrient concentration and transport in major rivers. Although water resources managers have been attempting to control nutrients in our Nation's waters through efforts such as point source pollution control, non-point source best-management-practices, and air quality controls to limit atmospheric deposition, the question on how effective these efforts are remains unclear. The scientific complexities of this problem include consideration of: time lags between control measures and expected results, the potential that different control measures will have a different type of impact at low versus high flows or during some seasons and not others, and the potential for hysteresis in relationships between concentration and flow. The answer to this seemingly simple question is difficult to determine because surface-water quality is so highly dependent on the natural interannual variability of flow conditions.


Hirsch, R.M., and Ryberg, K.R. 2012 (web publication 10/24/11), Has the magnitude of floods across the USA changed with global CO2 levels?: Hydrological Sciences Journal, v. 57, no, 1, p. 1-9. (on-line abstract of journal article)

Medalie, L., Hirsch, R.M., and Archfield, S.A., 2012, Use of flow-normalization to evaluate nutrient concentration and flux changes in Lake Champlain tributaries, 1990-2009: Journal of Great Lakes Research, v. 38, supplement 1, p. 58-67. (on-line abstract of journal article)

Hirsch, R.M., 2011, A perspective on non-stationarity and water management: Journal of the American Water Resources Association, v. 47, no. 3, p. 436-446. (on-line abstract or on-line journal article in pdf format, 432 KB, U.S. Government work in the public domain in the

Sprague, L.A., Hirsch, R.M., and Aulenbach, B.R., 2011, Nitrate in the Mississippi River and Its Tributaries, 1980 to 2008: Are We Making Progress?: Environmental Science & Technology, v. 45, no. 17, p. 7209-7216. (on-line abstract or on-line article in pdf format, 2296 KB, published by the American Chemical Society, not subject to U.S. copyright)

Hirsch, R.M., Moyer, D.L., and Archfield, S.A., 2010, Weighted regressions on time, discharge, and season (WRTDS), with an application to Chesapeake Bay River inputs: Journal of the American Water Resources Association, v. 46, no. 5, p. 857 - 880. (on-line abstract or on line article in pdf format, 658 KB, open publication published on Wiley Online Library)

Lins, H.F., Hirsch, R.M. and Kiang, J, 2010, "Water--the Nation's fundamental climate issue, A white paper on the U.S. Geological Survey role and capabilities: U.S. Geological Survey Circular 1347, 9 p. (on-line introduction or on-line report in pdf format, 3.33 MB)

Hirsch, R.M., 2008, Book Review of "Oil, Water, and Climate: An Introduction, by Catherine Gautier": EOS, v. 89, no. 47, 18 November 2008, p. 475.

Hirsch, R.M, Miller, T.L., Hamilton, P., Gilliom, R., 2008, Key Water Issues Now Facing Our Nation, in Water Resources Concerns in the Next Decade: American Water Resources Association, Impact, v 10, no. 3, p. 31.

Milly, P.C.D., Betancourt, J., Falkenmark, M., Hirsch, R.M., Kundzewicz, Z.W., Lettenmaier, D.P., and Stouffer, R.J., 2008, Stationarity is dead: Whither water management?: Science, v. 319, no. 5863, p. 573-574. (on-line report in pdf format)

For bibliographic citations by Robert Hirsch prior to 2008, see additional bibliography.

Robert M. Hirsch
U.S. Geological Survey, MS 432 National Center, 12201 Sunrise Valley Drive, Reston, VA 20192
Telephone: 703-648-5888

For information on additional projects in the National Research Program, see Indexes to NRP projects and bibliographies.

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