Technical Papers

Trend and Variability in Observed Hydrological Extremes in the United States


Identification of changes in hydrological extremes plays an important role in water resources management. This study investigates various properties in hydrological extremes including annual maximum daily flow (high flow) and annual minimum 7-day flow (low flow) in 252 unimpaired streamflow gauges in the continental United States. Three statistical methodologies are performed: the nonparametric Mann-Kendall test is used to evaluate temporal trends; the non-parametric change point Pettitt test, to identify abrupt shifts; and the quantile perturbation method, to assess temporal variability. In the results of trend analysis, low flow exhibited some spatial patterns compared to high flow. In addition, low flow has increased over 64 years (1950–2013) in many stations. The Pettitt test indicates that low flows have experienced more significant abrupt changes compared to high flow. The results of the quantile perturbation method confirm that many significant increasing trends obtained during the 64 years of low flow are attributable to infrequent low flow events in the period before 1970. These findings highlight that various statistical approaches complement each other and must be simultaneously applied to hydrological time series.