TitleExtreme precipitation and phosphorus loads from two agricultural watersheds
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2017
AuthorsCarpenter, SR, Booth, EG, Kucharik, CJ
JournalLimnology and Oceanography
Paginationn/a - n/a
ISBN Number1939-5590

Phosphorus runoff from agricultural land is a major cause of eutrophication in lakes and reservoirs. Frequency and intensity of extreme precipitation events are increasing in agricultural regions of the Upper Midwestern U.S., and these increases are projected to continue as climate warms. We quantified the linkage between extreme daily precipitation and extreme daily discharge, phosphorus (P) load, and P concentration for Pheasant Branch and the Yahara River, two tributaries of Lake Mendota, Wisconsin, U.S.A. using the generalized Pareto distribution. Although precipitation extremes have increased since 1940, over the shorter period of stream monitoring (1994–2015 for Pheasant Branch and 1991–2015 for Yahara) there is no significant trend in extreme precipitation. Nonetheless a disproportionate number of extreme precipitation events (for example seven of the 11 largest 24-h events since 1901) occurred during the period of stream monitoring. Daily precipitation extremes were associated with extremes in daily discharge and P load. P load return levels increased steeply and almost linearly with precipitation on log-log axes. The trend toward more frequent and intense precipitation extremes will increase P loading and intensify the eutrophication of the lake, unless the excessive P enrichment of the watershed is reversed.

Alternate JournalLimnol. Oceanogr.