First Advisor

Hamid Moradkhani

Date of Publication

Winter 3-22-2019

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Civil & Environmental Engineering


Civil and Environmental Engineering




Droughts -- United States, Ecology -- Effect of drought on -- United States, Water quality -- Effect of drought on, Water efficiency



Physical Description

1 online resource (xi, 101 pages)


Climate extremes, in particular droughts are significant driving forces towards riverine and terrestrial ecosystems disturbance. Drought impacts on stream ecosystems include losses that can either be direct (e.g. destruction of habitat for aquatic species) or indirect (e.g. deterioration of water quality, soil quality, and increased chance of wildfires). This study investigates hydrological and agricultural droughts and their recovery durations. For the riverine ecosystems, this study combines hydrologic drought and water quality changes during droughts and represents a multi-stage framework to detect and characterize hydrological droughts, while considering water quality parameters. Hydrological droughts are categorized into three stages of growth, persistence, retreat, and water quality variables (i.e., water temperature, dissolved oxygen concentration, and turbidity) are utilized to further investigate drought recovery. The framework is applied to 400 streamflow gauges across the Contiguous United States (CONUS) over the study period of 1950-2016. The framework is assessed and validated based on three drought events declared by the state of California in 2002, 2008, and for the 2012 US drought, which affected most of the nation. Results reveal the duration, frequency, and severity of historical droughts in various regions, additionally, duration of each stage of drought (i.e., growth, persistence, and retreat) is also assessed and the spatial patterns are diagnosed across the CONUS. Varied drought recovery durations are perceived for different water quality variables, and in general, it takes about two more months for water quality variables to recover from a drought, following the hydrological drought termination. For the terrestrial ecosystem, this study evaluated drought impacts on gross primary productivity (GPP), evapotranspiration (ET), and water use efficiency (WUE = GPP/ET) of different terrestrial ecosystems over the CONUS, as well as the drought-recovery during the period of 2000 to 2014. The response of WUE to drought showed large differences in various regions and biomes. WUE for arid ecosystems typically showed a positive response (increase) to drought, whereas WUE for humid ecosystems showed both positive and negative response to drought. The results revealed that WUE is correlated with drought severity, and for more severe droughts, WUE changes more significantly. Furthermore, terrestrial drought recovery shows a positive correlation with drought severity and in regions that experienced more severe drought episodes, ecosystem requires longer period to recover.


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