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Colorado Streamflow: Its Past and Likely Future
Woodhouse, C.A. and Lukas, J.J. 2006. Multi-century tree-ring reconstructions of Colorado streamflow for water resource planning. Climatic Change 78: 293-315.

What was done
Noting that "paleoclimatic studies indicate that the natural variability in 20th century [streamflow] gage records is likely only a subset of the full range of natural variability," and citing in support of this statement the studies of Stockton and Jacoby (1976), Smith and Stockton (1981), Meko et al. (2001) and Woodhouse (2001), the authors went on to develop "a network of 14 annual streamflow reconstructions, 300-600 years long, for gages in the Upper Colorado and South Platte River basins in Colorado generated from new and existing tree-ring chronologies."

What was learned
Woodhouse and Lukas' streamflow reconstructions indicated, in their words, that "the 20th century gage record does not fully represent the range of streamflow characteristics seen in the prior two to five centuries." Of greatest significance, in this regard, was probably the fact that "multi-year drought events more severe than the 1950s drought have occurred," and that "the greatest frequency of extreme low flow events occurred in the 19th century," with a "clustering of extreme event years in the 1840s and 1850s."

What it means
These findings are of great importance to water resource planners. In addition, we note that with all the angst throughout the world about the catastrophic consequences predicted by climate alarmists to accompany CO2-induced global warming - which consequences are said by some to be worse than nuclear warfare and global terrorism - these findings also provide a great "security net" for climate-alarmist claims about the future, when they are predicting both droughts and floods will intensify in response to anthropogenic-produced increases in temperature.

This "assurance of fulfillment" of their prophetic pronouncements arises from the fact that the reconstructed variability of streamflow - both in Colorado and elsewhere (see Streamflow and Drought in our Subject Index) - is "only a subset of the full range of natural variability." This being the case, it can be appreciated that predictions of abnormal (relative to the past hundred or so years) perturbations of both types of conditions (dry and wet) likely will see fulfillment ... but it will not be because of CO2-induced global warming, for atmospheric CO2 concentration and air temperature were both significantly lower than they were throughout the 20th century during the prior centuries that experienced the greatest natural variability in streamflow.

Clearly, climate alarmists are not dumb; they are wise as serpents, knowing that whatever abnormal extreme events come to pass in terms of droughts and floods - and come they will - those events will appear to vindicate their claims. But as the saying goes, and as we all know, appearances can be deceiving. And so they are ... and so are the climate alarmists.

Meko, D.M., Therrell, M.D., Baisan, C.H. and Hughes, M.K. 2001. Sacramento River flow reconstructed to A.D. 869 from tree rings. Journal of the American Water Resources Association 37: 1029-1039.

Smith, L.P. and Stockton, C.W. 1981. Reconstructed stream flow for the Salt and Verde Rivers from tree-ring data. Water Resources Bulletin 17: 939-947.

Stockton, C.W. and Jacoby, G.C. 1976. Long-Term Surface Water Supply and Streamflow Levels in the Upper Colorado River Basin, Lake Powell Research Project, Bulletin No. 18, Institute of Geophysics and Planetary Physics, University of California, Los Angeles, California, USA.

Woodhouse, C.A. 2001. Tree-ring reconstruction of mean annual streamflow for Middle Boulder Creek, Colorado, USA. Journal of the American Water Resources Association 37: 561-570.

Reviewed 28 February 2007