The fluctuation of streamflow in snowmelt-dominated watersheds may be an indicator of climate change. However, the relationship between the start of growing season (SOS) and the streamflow in snowmelt-dominated watersheds is not clear. In this study, we update the Coupled Hydro-Ecological Simulation System (CHESS) model by incorporating the Growing Season Index (GSI) module to estimate the start of the growing season. The updated CHESS model is then used to calculate the streamflow in the Cleve Creek, Incline Creek and Twin River watersheds located in Nevada in the United States from 1981 to 2017. This updated CHESS can be applied in any regions that are suitable for deciduous vegetation. The streamflow in the static and dynamic scheme in the three watersheds have been simulated between 1981 and 2017 with the NS of 0.52 and 0.80 in the Cleve Creek, 0.46 and 0.75 in the Incline Creek, and 0.42 and 0.70 in the Twin River watersheds, respectively. The results illustrate that the SOS have come around 3–5 weeks earlier during the last 37 years. The results illustrate a high correlation between the temperature and the timing of the SOS. Early SOS leads to a substantial increase in total annual transpiration. An increase in annual transpiration can reduce aquifer recharge and increase cumulative growing season soil moisture deficit. Comparing to the streamflow without vegetation, the streamflow with vegetation is smaller due to transpiration. As the SOS comes earlier, the peaks of the streamflow with vegetation also come earlier. If the shifts in SOS continue, the effects on annual rates of transpiration can be significant, which may reduce the risk of flooding during snowmelt. On the other hand, earlier SOS may cause soil moisture to decline during summer, which would increase the drought stress in trees and the risk of wildfires and insect infestation.
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