CR 51:147-158 (2012) - doi:10.3354/cr01059
Rio Grande and Rio Conchos water supply variability over the past 500 years
Connie A. Woodhouse1,*, David W. Stahle2, José Villanueva Díaz3
ABSTRACT: The Rio Grande is a major source of water for parts of Mexico and the USA. The 2 main source regions for the Rio Grande system are the San Juan Mountains of the southern Rocky Mountains and the Sierra Madre Occidental in Mexico, which is the headwaters for the Rio Conchos, the largest tributary of the Rio Grande. Precipitation and streamflow from these 2 source regions are largely independent of each other; winter snowpack is the dominant contributor to the annual streamflow north of the USA−Mexico border, and the North American monsoon is a key factor in the Rio Conchos basin. Reconstructions of water year (October−September) streamflow for a gauge in the upper Rio Grande, 1508−2002, and of October−July precipitation in the Rio Conchos watershed region, 1649−1993, also indicate a lack of correlation between the 2 basins over century time scales. Despite this lack of correlation, periods of concurrent multiyear drought have occurred over the past 4 centuries, most notably in the 1770s, 1890s and 1950s. These rare concurrent droughts in the upper Rio Grande and Rio Conchos source regions may arise from large-scale forcing out of the Pacific Ocean and will be relevant to the binational planning of these water resources, which serve a large and growing population of users.
KEY WORDS: Rio Grande · Rio Conchos · Water resources · Dendrochronology · Paleoclimate
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