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Kansas Water Science Center

A Regression Model for Annual Streamflow in the Upper Mississippi River Basin Based on Solar Irradiance

By Charles A. Perry


Annual streamflow in the upper Mississippi River Basin demonstrates an apparent connection to annual solar-irradiance variations. The relation is associated with the amount of solar energy available for absorption by the tropical Pacific Ocean and the subsequent effects this stored energy has on mid-latitude atmospheric circulation and precipitation occurrence. The suggested physical mechanism for the relation includes varying solar-energy input that creates ocean-temperature anomalies in the tropical ocean. The temperature anomalies are transported northward by ocean currents to locations where ocean and atmospheric processes can modify jet stream patterns. These patterns affect jet stream location and characteristics downward over North America, which affect the occurrence of precipitation and, ultimately, the amount of streamflow in the upper Mississippi River Basin. The relation provides an opportunity to estimate the annual streamflow of the upper Mississippi River. A multivariate model using solar-irradiance variations and the previous year's basin precipitation explains nearly one-half of the annual streamflow variability. When data for only LaNiŠa years are considered, the model explains more than two-thirds of the variability since 1950.

Additional information on Solar Irradiance and Streamflow can be found at:

Perry, C.A., 2000, A regression model for annual streamflow in the Upper Mississippi River Basin based on solar irradiance, in West, G.J., and Buffaloe, Lauren, eds., Proceedings of the Sixteenth Annual Pacific Climate Workshop, Santa Catalina Island, California, May 24-27, 1999; Interagency Ecological Program for Sacramento-San Joanquin Delta Technical Report 65, p. 161-170.

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