A statistical approach to using Remote Sensing Data to Discern Streamflow Variable Influence in the Snow Melt Dominated Upper Rio Grande Basin

TitleA statistical approach to using Remote Sensing Data to Discern Streamflow Variable Influence in the Snow Melt Dominated Upper Rio Grande Basin
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2022
AuthorsIslam KIftekharul, Elias EH, Brown C, James D.K, Heimel S
JournalRemote Sensing
Date Published11/30/2022
ARIS Log Number382248
Keywordssnowmelt runoff; second-order Akaike information criterion (AICc); streamflow dynamics; remotely sensed data; Upper Rio Grande

Since the middle of the 20th century, the peak snowpack in the Upper Rio Grande (URG) basin of United States has been decreasing. Warming influences snowpack characteristics such as snow cover, snow depth, and Snow Water Equivalent (SWE), which can affect runoff quantity and timing in snowmelt runoff-dominated river systems of the URG basin. The purpose of this research is to investigate which variables are most important in predicting naturalized streamflow and to explore variables’ relative importance for streamflow dynamics. We use long term remote sensing data for hydrologic analysis and deploy R algorithm for data processing and synthesizing. The data is analyzed on a monthly and baseflow/runoff basis for nineteen sub-watersheds in the URG. Variable importance and influence on naturalized streamflow is identified using linear standard regression with multi-model inference based on the second-order Akaike information criterion (AICc) coupled with the intercept only model. Five predictor variables: temperature, precipitation, soil moisture, sublimation, and SWE are identified in order of relative importance for streamflow prediction. The most influential variables for streamflow prediction vary temporally between baseflow and runoff conditions and spatially by watershed and mountain range. Despite the importance of temperature on streamflow, it is not consistently the most important factor in streamflow prediction across time and space. The dominance of precipitation over streamflow is more obvious during baseflow. The impact of precipitation, SWE, sublimation, and minimum temperature on streamflow is evident during the runoff season, but the results vary for different sub-watersheds. The association between sublimation and streamflow is positive in the runoff season, which may relate to temperature and requires further research. This research sheds light on the primary drivers and their spatial and temporal variability on streamflow generation. This work is critical for predicting how warming temperatures will impact water supplies serving society and ecosystems in a changing climate.