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Potential effects of climate change on streamflow for seven watersheds in eastern and central Montana

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Abstract

Study region Eastern and central Montana. Study focus Fish in Northern Great Plains streams tolerate extreme conditions including heat, cold, floods, and drought; however changes in streamflow associated with long-term climate change may render some prairie streams uninhabitable for current fish species. To better understand future hydrology of these prairie streams, the Precipitation-Runoff Modeling System model and output from the RegCM3 Regional Climate model were used to simulate streamflow for seven watersheds in eastern and central Montana, for a baseline period (water years 1982–1999) and three future periods: water years 2021–2038 (2030 period), 2046–2063 (2055 period), and 2071–2088 (2080 period). New hydrological insights for the region Projected changes in mean annual and mean monthly streamflow vary by the RegCM3 model selected, by watershed, and by future period. Mean annual streamflows for all future periods are projected to increase (11–21%) for two of the four central Montana watersheds: Middle Musselshell River and Cottonwood Creek. Mean annual streamflows for all future periods are projected to decrease (changes of −24 to −75%) for Redwater River watershed in eastern Montana. Mean annual streamflows are projected to increase slightly (2–15%) for the 2030 period and decrease (changes of −16 to −44%) for the 2080 period for the four remaining watersheds.

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Chase, K. J., Haj, A. E., Regan, R. S., & Viger, R. J. (2016). Potential effects of climate change on streamflow for seven watersheds in eastern and central Montana. Journal of Hydrology: Regional Studies, 7, 69–81. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ejrh.2016.06.001

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