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Climate, snowpack, and streamflow of Priest River Experimental Forest, revisited

Author(s): Wade T. Tinkham, Robert Denner, Russell T. Graham
Year Published: 2015
Description:

The climate record of Priest River Experimental Forest has the potential to provide a century-long history of northern Rocky Mountain forest ecosystems. The record, which began in 1911 with the Benton Flat Nursery control weather station, included observations of temperature, precipitation, humidity, and wind. Later, other observations stations were added to the network and observations were expanded to include snow courses and streamflow measurements. The region contains nearly all of the dominant forest types within the northern Rocky Mountains, from the xeric ponderosa pine forest type, to the highly mesic western red cedar type, with mesic Douglas-fir forests in between. Over the last century, the area has experienced an increase in minimum daily temperatures of 2.8 °F, while no discernable trend can be seen in the maximum temperatures. This observed increase in minimum daily temperature is consistent with changes expected from global warming. The total annual precipitation has not changed over the last century, while the March 1st snowpack at the lower elevations within the catchment has declined by over 30%. Although there is no change in total precipitation, there has been a 33% increase in average annual stream runoff. This change in runoff is attributed to both a shift in streamflow timing, due to earlier snowpack melt, and to large changes in tree species composition following the white pine blister rust epidemic in the 1950s. This unique dataset has the potential to inform managers and researchers about the changes regional climatic water balances may undergo as climate continues to shift.

Citation: Tinkham, Wade T.; Denner, Robert; Graham, Russell T. 2015. Climate, snowpack, and streamflow of Priest River Experimental Forest, revisited. Gen. Tech. Rep. RMRS-GTR-331. Fort Collins, CO: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station. 49 p
Topic(s): Fire & Future Climate
Ecosystem(s): Montane wet mixed-conifer forest, Montane dry mixed-conifer forest
Document Type: Technical Report or White Paper
NRFSN number: 13114
Record updated: Apr 19, 2017