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Abstract Winters in snow-covered regions have warmed, likely shifting the timing and magnitude of nutrient export, leading to unquantified changes in water quality. Intermittent, seasonal, and permanent snow covers more than half of the global land surface. Warming has reduced the cold conditions that limit winter runoff and nutrient transport, while cold season snowmelt, the amount of winter precipitation falling as rain, and rain-on-snow have increased. We used existing geospatial datasets (rain-on-snow frequency overlain on nitrogen and phosphorous inventories) to identify areas of the contiguous United States (US) where water quality could be threatened by this change. Next, to illustrate the potential export impacts of these events, we examined flow and turbidity data from a large regional rain-on-snow event in the United States’ largest river basin, the Mississippi River Basin. We show that rain-on-snow, a major flood-generating mechanism for large areas of the globe (Berghuijs et al 2019 Water Resour. Res. 55 4582–93; Berghuijs et al 2016 Geophys. Res. Lett. 43 4382–90), affects 53% of the contiguous US and puts 50% of US nitrogen and phosphorus pools (43% of the contiguous US) at risk of export to groundwater and surface water. Further, the 2019 rain-on-snow event in the Mississippi Rivermore »Free, publicly-accessible full text available October 1, 2023
Abstract Non-perennial rivers and streams make up over half the global river network and are becoming more widespread. Transitions from perennial to non-perennial flow are a threshold-type change that can lead to alternative stable states in aquatic ecosystems, but it is unknown whether streamflow itself is stable in either wet (flowing) or dry (no-flow) conditions. Here, we investigated drivers and feedbacks associated with regime shifts between wet and dry conditions in an intermittent reach of the Arkansas River (USA) over the past 23 years. Multiple lines of evidence suggested that these regimes represent alternative stable states, including (a) significant jumps in discharge time series that were not accompanied by jumps in flow drivers such as precipitation and groundwater pumping; (b) a multi-modal state distribution with 92% of months experiencing no-flow conditions for <10% or >90% of days, despite unimodal distributions of precipitation and pumping; and (c) a hysteretic relationship between climate and flow state. Groundwater levels appear to be the primary control over the hydrological regime, as groundwater levels in the alluvial aquifer were higher than the stream stage during wet regimes and lower than the streambed during dry regimes. Groundwater level variation, in turn, was driven by processes occurringmore »Free, publicly-accessible full text available June 16, 2023