El-Niño/Southern Oscillation (ENSO) influences on monthly NO3 load and concentration, stream flow and precipitation in the Little River Watershed, Tifton, Georgia (GA)

V. W. Keener, G. W. Feyereisen, U. Lall, J. W. Jones, D. D. Bosch, R. Lowrance

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

54 Scopus citations


As climate variability increases, it is becoming increasingly critical to find predictable patterns that can still be identified despite overall uncertainty. The El-Niño/Southern Oscillation is the best known pattern. Its global effects on weather, hydrology, ecology and human health have been well documented. Climate variability manifested through ENSO has strong effects in the southeast United States, seen in precipitation and stream flow data. However, climate variability may also affect water quality in nutrient concentrations and loads, and have impacts on ecosystems, health, and food availability in the southeast. In this research, we establish a teleconnection between ENSO and the Little River Watershed (LRW), GA., as seen in a shared 3-7 year mode of variability for precipitation, stream flow, and nutrient load time series. Univariate wavelet analysis of the NINO 3.4 index of sea surface temperature (SST) and of precipitation, stream flow, NO3 concentration and load time series from the watershed was used to identify common signals. Shared 3-7 year modes of variability were seen in all variables, most strongly in precipitation, stream flow and nutrient load in strong El Niño years. The significance of shared 3-7 year periodicity over red noise with 95% confidence in SST and precipitation, stream flow, and NO3 load time series was confirmed through cross-wavelet and wavelet-coherence transforms, in which common high power and co-variance were computed for each set of data. The strongest 3-7 year shared power was seen in SST and stream flow data, while the strongest co-variance was seen in SST and NO3 load data. The strongest cross-correlation was seen as a positive value between the NINO 3.4 and NO3 load with a three-month lag. The teleconnection seen in the LRW between the NINO 3.4 index and precipitation, stream flow, and NO3 load can be utilized in a model to predict monthly nutrient loads based on short-term climate variability, facilitating management in high risk seasons.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)352-363
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Hydrology
Issue number3-4
StatePublished - Feb 15 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • El Niño
  • ENSO
  • Hydrology
  • Nutrients
  • Southeast US
  • Wavelets

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Water Science and Technology


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