Annals of global warming: Talking reason; how does the Colorado flow?

February 14, 2010

From the introduction to Colorado River Basin Water Management: Evaluating and Adjusting to Hydroclimatic Variability, Water Science and Technology Board (WSTB), National Academies Press (2007):

The 20th century saw a trend of increasing mean temperatures across the Colorado River basin that has continued into the early 21st century. There is no evidence that this warming trend will dissipate in the coming decades; many different climate model projections point to a warmer future for the Colorado River region.

Modeling results show less consensus regarding future trends in precipitation. Several hydroclimatic studies project that significant decreases in runoff and streamflow will accompany increasing temperatures. Other studies, however, suggest increasing future flows, highlighting the uncertainty attached to future runoff and streamflow projections. Based on analysis of many recent climate model simulations, the preponderance of scientific evidence suggests that warmer future temperatures will reduce future Colorado River streamflow and water supplies. Reduced streamflow would also contribute to increasing severity, frequency, and duration of future droughts.

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