31 May 2022
31 May 2022
Status: this preprint is currently under review for the journal HESS.

Impacts of different types of El Niño events on water quality over the Corn Belt, United States

Pan Chen1,2, Wenhong Li2, and Keqi He2 Pan Chen et al.
  • 1College of Water Resources Science and Engineering, Taiyuan University of Technology, Taiyuan 030024, China
  • 2Earth and Climate Sciences, Nicholas School of the Environment, Duke University, NC 27708, USA

Abstract. The United States Corn Belt region, which primarily includes two large basins, namely, the Ohio-Tennessee River Basin (OTRB) and the Upper Mississippi River Basin (UMRB), is responsible for the Gulf of Mexico hypoxic zone. Climate patterns such as El Niño can affect the runoff and thus the water quality over the Corn Belt. In this study, the impacts of eastern Pacific (EP) and central Pacific (CP) El Niños on water quality over the Corn Belt region were analyzed using the Soil and Water Assessment Tool (SWAT) models. Our results indicated that at the outlets, annual total nitrogen (TN) and total phosphorus (TP) loads decreased by 13.1 % and 14.0 % at OTRB, 18.5 % and 19.8 % at UMRB, respectively, during the EP-El Niño years, whereas during the CP-El Niño years, they increased by 3.3 % and 4.6 % at OTRB, 5.7 % and 4.4 % at UMRB, respectively. On the sub-basin scales, more sub-basins showed negative (positive) anomalies of TN and TP during EP- (CP-) El Niño. Seasonal study confirmed that water quality anomalies showed opposite patterns during EP- and CP-El Niño years. At the outlet of OTRB, seasonal anomalies in nutrients matched the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) phases, illustrating the importance of climate variables associated with the two types of El Niño on water quality in the region. At the UMRB, TN and TP were also influenced by agriculture activities within the region and their anomalies became greater in the growing seasons during both EP- and CP-El Niño years. Quantitative analysis of precipitation, temperature, and their effects on nutrients suggested that precipitation played a more important role than temperature did in altering water quality in the Corn Belt region during both types of El Niño years. We also found specific watersheds (located in Iowa, Illinois, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Indiana) that faced the greatest increases in TN and TP loads, were affected by both the precipitation and agricultural activities during the CP-El Niño years. The information generated from this study may help proper decision-making for water environment protection over the Corn Belt.

Pan Chen et al.

Status: open (until 29 Jul 2022)

Comment types: AC – author | RC – referee | CC – community | EC – editor | CEC – chief editor | : Report abuse
  • RC1: 'Comment on hess-2022-138', Anonymous Referee #1, 05 Jun 2022 reply

Pan Chen et al.


Total article views: 270 (including HTML, PDF, and XML)
HTML PDF XML Total Supplement BibTeX EndNote
228 36 6 270 9 0 0
  • HTML: 228
  • PDF: 36
  • XML: 6
  • Total: 270
  • Supplement: 9
  • BibTeX: 0
  • EndNote: 0
Views and downloads (calculated since 31 May 2022)
Cumulative views and downloads (calculated since 31 May 2022)

Viewed (geographical distribution)

Total article views: 242 (including HTML, PDF, and XML) Thereof 242 with geography defined and 0 with unknown origin.
Country # Views %
  • 1
Latest update: 28 Jun 2022
Short summary
The study assessed changes of total nitrogen (TN) and total phosphorus (TP) loads in response to eastern Pacific (EP) and central Pacific (CP) El Niños over the Corn Belt, U.S., using the SWAT model. Results showed that EP (CP)-El Niños improved (exacerbated) water quality in the region. Furthermore, EP-El Nino had a much broader and longer impact on water quality at the outlets, but CP-El Niño could have comparable greatest increases in TN and TP loads as EP-El Niño at the specific watersheds.