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Global Change Hydrology Program (Hydroclimatology)

Please contact Julie Kiang with questions.


Atmospheric circulation over
the North Pacific Ocean at
700-mb (about 10,000 feet),
and associated precipitation
and freshwater inflow from the
Sierra Nevada through the Delta
to San Franciso Bay on March 17,
1983. The image is a single
frame from the hydroclimate
and salinity response movie.
Click on the image to enlarge.


The Global Change Hydrology Program was begun in 1990 to develop data, understanding, and predictive capabilities related to water and associated aspects of carbon and the greenhouse gases as they interact with global systems. The Program is part of the USGS Global Change Research Program (Geochange) which, in turn, is an element of the U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP). Global Change Hydrology has two broad components: 1) investigations of hydroclimatic variability, and 2) studies of the biogeochemistry of greenhouse gases. The former are coordinated by the Office of Surface Water and are described herein. The latter are coordinated by the Office of Hydrologic Research, and additional information on those can be obtained at NRP, at WEBB, and at carbon cycle. Both components are national in scope and maintain strong programmatic linkages to scientists and projects supported by NSF, NOAA, and NASA.

The hydroclimatic research components of the Program focus on characterizing, and developing predictive methods related to, the hydroclimatology of North America. This includes identification of seasonal variations in regional streamflow in relation to atmospheric circulation (for regional streamflow prediction and flood/drought hazard assessment); the linkage between atmospheric circulation and snowpack accumulation (for forecasting spring and summer water supply in the western United States and for flood forecasting) as well as glacier mass balance; and the physical and chemical variability in riverine and estuarine environments in relation to large-scale atmospheric and oceanic conditions(to discriminate natural from human-induced effects on such systems). It also includes documenting the long-term behavior of hydrologic systems in response to past climatic variations and changes (from decades to hundreds of thousands of years) as well as more recent (decadal) hydrologic trends. Finally, the Program maintains an active effort to develop improved representations of terrestrial hydrologic processes in general circulation and regional climate models. In broad terms, these activities are aimed at improving statistical and deterministic methods for predicting hydrologic hazards and related environmental conditions on monthly to interannual time scales.

Harry Lins
Office of Surface Water, USGS

Research Activities

Hydrology in General Circulation and Regional Climatic Models
Continental hydrology and global climate
Regional climate model hydrology

Hydroclimatic variability
Observed streamflow trends
Hydroclimatology of Streams and Estuaries
Response of fluvial systems
Biotic response

Glacier, snow and ice processes
Glacier mass balance and snowpack

Paleohydrologic conditions
Continental paleoclimates
Paleoflood hydrology

Data Sets

HCDN Hydro-Climatic Data Network
GREDS GEWEX Continental-scale International Project Reference Data Set
Benchmark Glacier Data
Devils Hole Core DH-11

Fact Sheets

OFR 93-642 Drought
FS-062-95 Northern California Storms and Floods of January 1995
SF-Bay Seasonal/Yearly Salinity Variations in San Francisco Bay
Devils Hole Primer

Links to Other USGS Global Change Sites

WEBB Water, Energy, and Biogeochemical Budgets Program
Small Watershed Investigations in the USGS (Hirsch, 1998)
Water, Energy, and Bigrochemical Budgets Research (Lins, 1994)
Geochange USGS Global Change Research Program


Selected Publications of the Global Change Hydrology (Hydroclimatology) Program, 1988 - 1997
Selected Publications of the Global Change Hydrology (Hydroclimatology) Program, 1998-Present


Water and Climate Bibliography (Pacific Institute)


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