Effects of the El Niosouthern oscillation on temperature, precipitation, snow water equivalent and resulting streamflow in the Upper Rio Grande river basin Academic Article uri icon


  • Snowmelt runoff dominates streamflow in the Upper Rio Grande (URG) basin of New Mexico and Colorado. Annual variations in streamflow timing and volume at most stations in the region are strongly influenced by the El Nio-southern oscillation (ENSO) through its modulation of the seasonal cycles of temperature and precipitation, and hence on snow accumulation and melting. After removing long-term trends over the study period (water years 1952-99), the dependence of monthly temperature, precipitation, snow water equivalent (SWE) at snowcourse stations, and streamflow throughout the URG on ENSO was investigated using composite analyses of the detrended residuals and through dependence of the residuals on the Climate Prediction Center southern oscillation index during the preceding summer and fall. The climate of La Nia years was found to differ significantly from either El Nio or neutral years. Moreover, significant climatological ENSO-related effects are confined to certain months, predominantly at the beginning and end of the winter season. In particular, March of La Nia years is significantly warmer and drier than during either El Nio or neutral years, and November of El Nio years is significantly colder and wetter. Differences in temperature and precipitation lead to significant differences in SWE and streamflow in the URG between the three ENSO phases. 2004 John Wiley and Sons, Ltd.

published proceedings

  • Hydrological Processes

author list (cited authors)

  • Lee, S., Klein, A., & Over, T.

publication date

  • January 1, 2004 11:11 AM