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The ecosystems of the San Francisco Bay estuary are influenced by the salinity of its waters, which in turn depends on flushing by freshwater inflows from the western slopes of the Sierra Nevada. Estimates of full-natural flows in eight major rivers that flush the Bay are analyzed here by extended empirical-orthogonal-function analyses to characterize distinct ‘modes’ of seasonal flow and runoff variability. These modes provide a clear identification of the seasons in which the various rivers respond to hydroclimatic forcings and the seasons during which the rivers most strongly affect San Francisco Bay salinities. About 60 percent of the runoff variability is shared by the rivers over the course of a year but season-to-season...