National Research Program

Continental Water, Climate and Earth-System Dynamics

Continental water plays a crucial role in the dynamics of the Earth system. Water availability on land regulates fluxes of water and energy into the atmosphere, thereby playing a major role in the control of Earth's climate. Water availability is also a prime control of the global distribution of ecosystems and net primary productivity, with additional feedbacks to climate through the effect of vegetation on land-surface characteristics. Changes in water storage on the continents are the major control of the seasonal cycle of global-mean sea level and a significant factor in decadal to centennial sea-level rise. The time-varying load of continental water induces detectable deformations of the solid Earth and perturbations in its gravity field. This intimate relation among continental water and other parts of the Earth system presents numerous opportunities for synergy among the scientific disciplines of global hydrology, climate dynamics, global ecology, and geodesy. From a practical standpoint, such opportunities include new avenues for estimation of sensitivities of water-resource availability and streamflow characteristics to global variability and global change.

The project objectives are pursued with a global and interdisciplinary perspective. A balance is maintained among diagnostic analyses, theory, and modeling. Partnerships with other Federal agencies and universities are used to bring scientists from other disciplines into project studies. Especially strong and temporally persistent ties with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory (GFDL) and Princeton University are facilitated by location of the project in Princeton, New Jersey. Also see project home page at GFDL.


Eng, K., Carlisle, D.M., Wolock, D.M., and Falcone, J.A., in press (web publication 3/9/12), Predicting the likelihood of altered streamflows at ungauged rivers across the conterminous United States, River Research and Applications, doi: 10.1002/rra.2565. (on-line abstract of journal article)

Burkett, V.R., Taylor, I.L., Belnap, J., Cronin, T.M., Dettinger, M.D., Frazier, E.L., Haines, J.W., Kirtland, D.A., Loveland, T.R., Milly, P.C.D., O'Malley, R., and Thompson, .S., 2011, USGS global change science strategy: A framework for understanding and responding to climate and land-use change: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2011-1033, 32 p. (on-line abstract or on-line report in pdf format, 2.28 MB)

Donner, L.J., Wyman, B.L., Hemler, R.S., Horowitz, L.W., Ming, Y., Zhao, M., Golaz, J-C., Ginoux, P., Lin, S-J., Schwarzkopf, M.D., Austin, J., Alaka, G., Cooke, W.F.,. Delworth, T.L., Freidenreich, S.M., Gordon, C.T.,. Griffies, S.M., Held, I.M.,. Hurlin, W.J.,. Klein, S.A., Knutson, T.R., Langenhorst, A.R., Lee, H-C Lin, Y., Magi, B.I., Malyshev, S.L., Milly, P.C.D., Naik, V., Nath, M.J., Pincus, R., Ploshay, J.J., Ramaswamy, V., Seman, C.J., Shevliakova, E., Sirutis, J.J.,. Stern, W.F., Stouffer, R.J., Wilson, R.J., Winton, M., Wittenberg, A.T., and Zeng, F., 2011, The Dynamical Core, Physical Parameterizations, and Basic Simulation Characteristics of the Atmospheric Component AM3 of the GFDL Global Coupled Model CM3: Journal of Climate, v. 24, no. 13, p. 3484-3519. doi: 10.1175/2011JCLI3955.1 (on-line abstract of journal article)

Eng, K., Kiang, J.E., Chen, Y.-Y., Carlisle, D.M., and Granato, G.E., 2011, Causes of systematic over- or underestimation of low streamflows by use of index-streamgage approaches in the United States: Hydrological Processes, v. 25, no. 14, p. 2211-2220. doi: 10.1002/hyp.7976, (on-line abstract or on-line journal article, 197 KB, published by John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. as a U.S. Government work in the public domain in the USA.

Milly, P.C.D., and Dunne, K.A., 2011, On the hydrologic adjustment of climate-model projections: The potential pitfall of potential evapotranspiration: Earth Interactions, v. 15, no. 1, p. 1-14. (on-line abstract of journal article)

Milly, P C.D., Anny Cazenave, A., Famiglietti, J.S., Gornitz, V., Laval, K., Lettenmaier, D.P., Sahagian, D.L., Wahr, J.M., and Wilson, C.R., 2010, in Church, J.A., Woodworth, P.L., Aarup, T., and Wilson, W.S., eds., Terrestrial water-storage contributions to sea-level rise and variability In Understanding Sea-Level Rise and Variability, Oxford: UK, Wiley-Blackwell, 226-255.

Ries, K.G., III and Eng, Ken, 2010, Estimation of selected streamflow statistics for a network of low-flow partial-record stations in areas affected by base realignment and closure (BRAC) in Maryland : U.S. Geological Scientific Investigations Report 2010-5170, 40 p. ( on-line abstract or on-line publication in pdf format, 4.35 MB)

Eng, K., Chen, Y.-Y., and Kiang, Julie E., 2009, User’s guide to the weighted-multiple-linear-regression program (WREG version 1.0): U.S. Geological Survey Techniques and Methods, book 4, chap. A8, 21 p. (on-line abstract or on-line report in pdf format, 4.5 MB)

Lettenmaier, D.P. and Milly, P.C.D., 2009, Land Waters and Sea Level: Nature Geoscience, v. 2, no. 7, p. 452 - 454.

Shevliakova, E., Pacala, S.W., Malyshev, S., Hurtt, G.C., Milly, P.C.D., Caspersen, J.P., Sentman, L.T., Fisk, J.P., Wirth, C., and Crevoisier, C., 2009, Carbon cycling under 300 years of land use change: Importance of the secondary vegetation sink: Global Biogeochemical Cycles, v. 23, GB2022, doi:10.1029/2007GB003176. (on-line abstract of journal article)

Funkhouser, J.E., Eng, K., Moix, M.W., 2008, Low-flow characteristics and regionalization of low-flow characteristics for selected streams in Arkansas: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2008-5065, 161 p. (on-line abstract or on-line report in pdf format, 18.7 MB)

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)

Eng, K. and Milly, P.C.D, 2007, Relating low-flow characteristics to the base flow recession time constant at partial record stream gauges: Water Resources Research, v. 43, W01201, doi:10.1029/2006WR005293. (on-line abstract or on-line journal article in pdf format, 216 kb, published 2007 by American Geophysical Union, not subject to U.S. copyright)

Eng, K., Milly, P.C.D., and Tasker, G.D., 2007, Flood regionalization: A hybrid geographic and predictor-variable region-of-influence regression method: Journal of Hydrologic Engineering, v. 12, p. 585 - 591. (on-line abstract)

Eng, K., Stedinger, J.R., and Gruber, A.M., 2007, Regionalization of streamflow characteristics for the Gulf-Atlantic Rolling Plains using leverage guided region-of -influence regression, in Kabbes, K.C., ed., Proceedings of the World Environmental and Water Resources Congress, May 15–19, 2007, Tampa, Florida, USA: American Society of Civil Engineers. (on-line abstract)

Findell, K.L., Shevliakova, E., Milly, P.C.D., and Stouffer, R.J., 2007: Modeled impact of anthropogenic land cover change on climate: Journal of Climate, v. 20, no. 14, p. 3621-3634. (on-line abstract of journal article)

Milly, P.C.D., 2007, Stationarity is dead: Ground Water News & Views, Association of Ground Water Scientists and Engineers, v. 4, no. 1, p. 6, 8. (on-line article in pdf format)

Delworth, T.L., Broccoli, A.J., Rosati, A., Stouffer, R.J., Balaji, V., Beesley, J.A., Cooke, W.F., Dixon, K.W., Dunne, J., Dunne, K.A., Durachta, J.W., Findell, K.L., Ginoux, P., Gnanadesikan, A., Gordon, C.T., Griffies, S.M., Gudgel, R., Harrison, M.J., Held, I.M., Hemler, R.S., Horowitz, L.W., Klein, S.A., Knutson, T.R., Kushner, P.J., Langenhorst, A.R., Lee, H.-C., Lin, S.-J., Lu, J., Malyshev, S.L., Milly, P.C.D., Ramaswamy, V., Russell, J., Schwarzkopf, M.D., Shevliakova, E., Sirutis, J.J., Spelman, M.J., Stern, W.F., Winton, M., Wittenberg, A.T., Wyman, B., Zeng, F., and Zhang, R., 2006, GFDL's CM2 Global Coupled Climate Models. Part I: Formulation and Simulation Characteristics: Journal of Climate, v. 19, no. 5, p. 643-674. (on-line abstract of journal article)

Findell, K.L., Knutson, T.R., and Milly, P.C.D., 2006, Weak simulated extratropical responses to complete tropical deforestation: Journal of Climate, v. 19, no. 12, p. 2835-2850. (on-line abstract or on-line journal article in pdf format)

Swenson, S.C., and Milly, P.C.D., 2006, Climate model biases in seasonality of continental water storage revealed by satellite gravimetry: Water Resources Research, v. 42, no. 3, W03201, doi:10.1029/2005WR004628. (on-line abstract of journal article)

Eckardt, F., Wood, W.W., Kraemer, T., and Eng, K.G., 2005, Airborne transport of evaporite salts from the Makgadikgadi depression, Environmental Geology in Semi-Arid Environments, in Vogel, H. and Chilume, C. eds., Proceedings of the International Workshop on Environmental Geology in Semi-Arid Environments, November 11-12, 2004, Selebi-Phikwe, Botswana.

Eng, K., Tasker, G.D., and Milly, P.C.D., 2005, An analysis of region-of-influence methods for flood regionalization in the Gulf-Atlantic Rolling Plains, Journal of the American Water Resources Association, v. 41, no. 1, p. 135-143. (on-line abstract or on-line paper in pdf format, 2239 KB)

Milly, P.C.D., 2005, Trends in the water budget of the Mississippi River basin, 1949-1997: U.S. Geological Survey Fact Sheet 2005-3020. (on-line fact sheet in html format or on-line fact sheet in pdf format, 107 KB)

Milly, P.C.D., Dunne, K.A., and Vecchia, A.V., 2005, Global pattern of trends in streamflow and water availability in a changing climate: Nature, v. 438, no. 7066, p. 347-350. (on-line abstract of journal article)

Potter, N.J., Zhang, L., Milly, P.C.D., McMahon, T.A., and Jakeman, A.J., 2005, Effects of rainfall seasonality and soil moisture capacity on mean annual water balance for Australian catchments: Water Resources Research, v. 41, no. 6, W06007, doi:10.1029/2004WR003697. (on-line abstract of journal article)

Cazenave, A., Milly, P.C.D., Douville, H., Benveniste, J., Kosuth, P., and Lettenmaier, D., 2004, Space techniques used to measure change in terrestrial waters: EOS, v. 85, no. 6, p. 58-59.

The GFDL Global Atmospheric Model Development Team, 2004: The new GFDL global atmosphere and land model AM2-LM2: Evaluation with prescribed SST simulations. Journal of Climate, v. 17, no. 24, p. 4641-4673. (on-line abstract of journal article)

Manabe S., Milly, P.C.D., and Wetherald, R., 2004, Simulated long-term changes in river discharge and soil moisture due to global warming: Hydrological Sciences Journal, v. 49, no. 4, p. 625-642. (on-line abstract and on-line article in pdf format)

Manabe, S., Wetherald, R.T., Milly, P.C.D., Delworth, T.L., and Stouffer, R.J., 2004: Century-scale change in water availability: CO2-quadrupling experiment. Climatic Change, v. 64, no. 1-2, 59-76. (on-line abstract or on-line article in pdf format)

National Research Council, 2004, Groundwater Fluxes Across Interfaces: : National Academy Press, Washington, D.C., 85 p. (on-line book)

Wood, W.W., Eckardt, F., Kraemer, T.F., and Eng, K., 2004, Quantitative eolian transport of evaporite salts from the Makgadikgadi Depression (Ntwetwe and Sua Pans) in northeastern Botswana: Implications for regional ground-water quality, in Barth, H-J., ed., Sabkha Ecosystems, v. 2, Africa Kluwer Academic Publishers.

Eng, K., Coulter, R.L., and Brutsaert, W., 2003, Vertical velocity variance in the mixed layer from radar wind profilers: Journal of Hydrologic Engineering, American Society of Civil Engineers, v. 8, no. 6, p. 301-307. (on-line abstract)

Milly, P.C.D., Cazenave, A., and Gennero, M.C., 2003, Contribution of climate-driven change in continental water storage to recent sea-level rise, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciencies, v. 100, no. 23, p.13158-13161. (on-line abstract or on-line article in pdf format)

Swenson, S., Wahr, J., and Milly, P.C.D. 2003, Estimated accuracies of regional water storage variations inferred from the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE): Water Resources Research, v. 39, no. 8, 1223 (on-line abstract)

Chris Milly (professional profile)
U.S. Geological Survey c/o Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory/NOAA, P. O. Box 308, Princeton, New Jersey 08542,
Telephone: 609-452-6507

  • Kenny Eng (professional profile)
    U.S. Geological Survey, 430 National Center, 12201 Sunrise Valley Drive, Reston, VA 20192
    Telephone: 703-648-5843

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