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Lakes & Reservoirs: Research and Management




Proxy variables from palaeolimnological studies of lakes in the Prairie Pothole Region of North America have been used to infer large oscillations during the late Holocene between longer periods of high-salinity–dry conditions and shorter periods of low-salinity–wet conditions producing a normative pattern marked by the absence of hydrological stability. Studies of the historical rise in lake level at Devils Lake have identified 1980 as a transition point between two such hydroclimatic modes. This study uses multiple datasets to characterize the mean hydroclimatological and hydrological conditions of these two climatic modes. Mode 1 is a cool and dry phase, and mode 2 is a warmer and wetter phase. Precipitation onto the lake increased by 24% from mode 1 to mode 2. This small, but sustained, increase produced significant changes in the mean hydroclimatic and hydrological states for the basin, including a 383% increase in surface run-off to the lake, and a 282% increase in the basin run-off ratio. Devils Lake Basin is located along a hydrotone (region of strong hydroclimatic gradients) where small changes in hydrological drivers are amplified into large changes in regional moisture. The effects of the fluctuating climatic modes and strong hydroclimatic gradients are probably further amplified by the unique fill–spill hydrology of the northern glaciated plains, which can result in nonlinear precipitation–run-off relationships. This natural pattern of extreme hydrological variations for Devils Lake produces enormous challenges for lake management.



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This is the peer reviewed version of the following article: Todhunter, P. E. (2016), Mean hydroclimatic and hydrological conditions during two climatic modes in the Devils Lake Basin, North Dakota (USA). Lakes Reserv Res Manage, 21: 338–350., which has been published in final form at This article may be used for non-commercial purposes in accordance with Wiley Terms and Conditions for Self-Archiving.

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