National Research Program

Paleohydrology and Climate Change

To anticipate the effects of potential climate change (natural or anthropogenic) on hydrology and to assess hydrologic trends will require an understanding of past long-term hydrologic variability. There also is a critical need for data on extreme floods for better understanding flood processes, in engineering hydrology, flood-hazard mitigation, and other disciplines requiring flood-risk assessments. Probably the best information on hydrologic variability and extreme floods is provided by paleohydrologic and other proxy data analyzed with the help of hydrologic models. Methods for extending existing climatic and hydrologic records over long-time scales are needed. A relatively new approach, one that complements hydrologic modeling efforts, involves the application of paleohydrology to determine regional scale hydrologic variability over relatively long-time intervals (100 to 10,000 years). Existing techniques for paleohydrologic reconstruction have large errors; hence, there is a critical need to improve paleohydrologic techniques. The primary goals of this project are to (1) improve techniques to reconstruct the fluvial history of river basins, particularly for extreme floods; (2) improve the understanding of hydrologic and hydraulic processes to improve numerical models of rivers; and (3) improve the understanding of links between climate and hydrology. These goals are closely related because the development and use of paleohydrologic techniques require an understanding of geomorphic response to climate change and an improved understanding of hydrologic and hydraulic processes.


Porter, K, Wein, A, Alpers, C, Baez, A, Barnard, P, Carter, J, Corsi, A, Costner, J, Cox, D, Das, T, Dettinger, M, Done, J, Eadie, C, Eymann, M, Ferris, J, Gunturi, P, Hughes, M, Jarrett, R, Johnson, L, Dam Le-Griffin, H, Mitchell, D, Morman, S, Neiman, P, Olsen, A, Perry, S, Plumlee, G, Ralph, M, Reynolds, D, Rose, A, Schaefer, K, Serakos, J, Siembieda, W, Stock, J, Strong, D, Sue Wing, I, Tang, A, Thomas, P, Topping, K. Wills, C; Jones, L, and Cox, D, 2011, Overview of the ARkStorm scenario: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2010-1312, 183 p. and appendixes. (on-line abstract or on-line report in pdf format, 9.8 MB; plus appendix A, 2 MB, and appendix B, 598 kB)

Costa, J.E., and Jarrett, R.D., 2008, An Evaluation of Selected Extraordinary Floods in the United States Reported by the U.S. Geological Survey and Implications for Future Advancement of Flood Science: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2008–5164, 52 p., and 1 appendix, 180 p. (on-line abstract of on-line report in pdf format, 4.99 MB and on-line appendices in pdf format, 23.4 MB)

Jarrett, R.D., and Costa, J.E., 2006, 1976 Big Thompson Flood, Colorado--Thirty years later: U.S. Geological Survey Fact Sheet 2006-3095, 6 p. (on-line fact sheet in pdf format, 6.4 MB)

Jarrett, R.D., and Vandas, S.J. (compilers), 2006, 1976 Big Thompson Flood, Colorado: U.S. Geological Survey General Information Product 35. (on-line summary and access to poster in pdf format)

Dohm, J.M., Ferris, J.C., Barlow, N.G., Baker, V.R., Mahaney, W.C., Anderson, R.C., and Hare, T.M., 2004, The northwestern slope valleys (NSVs) region, Mars: A prime candidate site for the future exploration of Mars: Planetary and Space Sciences, v. 52, p. 189-198. (on-line abstract)

Tomlinson, E.M., Jarrett, R.D., Parzybok, T.W., and Trieste, D.J., 2004, Reanalysis of Colorado extreme rainstorm using GIS, paleoflood, and rainfall-runoff: Journal of Dam Safety, v. 2, no. 4, p. 21-31.

England, J.F. Jr., Jarrett, R.D., Salas, J.D., 2003, Data-based comparisons of moments esti-mators using historical and paleoflood data: Journal of Hydrology, v. 278, p. 172-196. (on-line abstract)

England, J.F., Salas, J.D., and Jarrett, R.D., 2003, Comparisons of two moments-based estimators that utilize historical and paleoflood data for the log Pearson type III distribution: Water Resources Research, v. 39, no. 9, p. 1243 (on-line abstract)

Robert D. Jarrett
U.S. Geological Survey, P.O. Box 25046, MS412, Denver Federal Center, Lakewood, CO 80225-0046
Telephone: 303-236-6447

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

*For articles in Adobe® (.PDF) format, please note that you can download a free copy of Adobe® Acrobat® Reader® here. Also see Adobe® accessibility information, Information for users with disabilities, if applicable.

Accessibility FOIA Privacy Policies and Notices

Take Pride in America logo logo U.S. Department of the Interior | U.S. Geological Survey
Page Contact Information: Linda Friedman
Page Last Modified: Tuesday, 04-Mar-2014 11:28:29 EST