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Master of Science (M.S.)

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Groundwater, Climate Change, New England, Anomalies


The scientific evidence that humans are directly influencing the Earth’s natural climate is increasingly compelling. Numerous studies suggest that climate change will lead to changes in the seasonality of surface water availability thereby increasing the need for groundwater development to offset those shortages. Research shows that the Northeast region of the U.S. is experiencing changes to its’ natural climate and hydrologic systems. This study provides the first instrumental long-term regional compilation and analysis of the water table response to the last 60 years of climate in New England. This investigation will evaluate the physical mechanisms and underlying mechanisms, natural variability and response of New England aquifers to climate variability.

Using 100 long term groundwater monitoring stations with 20 or more years of data coupled with 67 stream gages, 75 precipitation stations, and 43 temperature stations, several statistical analyses are performed. Groundwater trends are calculated as normalized anomalies and analyzed with respect to regional compiled precipitation, temperature, and streamflow anomalies to understand the sensitivity of the aquifer systems to change. Trend, regression, correlation and spectral analysis are preformed on groundwater data to identify statistical relationships with climate variables, hydrogeologic properties and the hydrologic setting.

Results suggest that regionally, New England aquifers respond strongly to annual and decadal changes in climate. Coherence in the relationship between groundwater and climate variables exists with a second order variability related to the hydrogeologic setting. The trend and regression analysis demonstrate that water level fluctuations are producing statistically significant results with increasing water levels over at least the past thirty years at most well sites. Long term cycles within the groundwater data suggest teleconnections with known sea surface temperature or pressure fluctuations such as ENSO, NAO, IPO and QBO. Anomalies of groundwater data within various geologic settings suggest that watershed characteristics; such as the surficial geology and topography of the region, play a role in the evolution of water levels in New England. These results have major implications for not only water management but the agriculture, forestry, fishing, and tourism industries as they all depend on the quantity and quality of water resources of the region.


First Advisor

David F. Boutt