NOAA 2003-R213
Contact: Carmeyia Gillis
NOAA News Releases 2003
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Old trees in Colorado are providing new insight into drought conditions and helping water management agencies to plan for the future, according to Connie Woodhouse, a scientist with the Commerce Department’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Paleoclimatology Program.

Woodhouse presented the results of a study at the annual meeting of the American Meteorological Society in Long Beach, Calif., on February 11.

Extended records from tree-ring data, which can be used to reconstruct past hydroclimatic conditions, provide a longer context from which to assess the 2002 drought and other 20th century droughts. Over the past year, NOAA has formed working partnerships with a variety of Front Range water management agencies who have expressed interest in incorporating tree-ring reconstructed flow records in their planning. These include Denver Water and the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District, several municipalities (Boulder, Westminster, Longmont), and a large private company (Coors Brewing Company), as well as several consulting firms.

Of immediate interest to water management agencies is the assessment of the unusualness of the 2002 drought, as well as information for managing possible continuing drought conditions. “The tree-ring reconstructions of streamflow can provide a 300-500 year context for assessing the frequency of a 2002-magnitude drought,” Woodhouse said.

“Analyses of streamflow reconstructions for the Upper Colorado and South Platte River watersheds suggest that the severity of the 2002-year drought has been matched or exceeded about five times in the past three centuries,” Woodhouse said. “When considered as a three-year drought (2000-2002), this event is much less rare.”

The NOAA Paleoclimatology Program is part of the NOAA National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Service (NOAA Satellites and Information), the nation’s primary source of space-based meteorological and climate data. NOAA Satellites and Information operates the nation's environmental satellites, which are used for weather forecasting, climate monitoring and other environmental applications such as fire detection, ozone monitoring and sea surface temperature measurements.

NOAA Satellites and Information also operates three data centers, which house global data bases in climatology, oceanography, solid earth geophysics, marine geology and geophysics, solar-terrestrial physics and paleoclimatology.

The Commerce Department’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is dedicated to enhancing economic security and national safety through the prediction and research of weather and climate-related events and providing environmental stewardship of our nation’s coastal and marine resources.

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