, Volume 76, Issue 1-2, pp 121-148
Date: 29 Mar 2006

The Warming of Lake Tahoe

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We investigated the effects of climate variability on the thermal structure of Lake Tahoe, California-Nevada, 1970–2002, and with principal components analysis and step-wise multiple regression, related the volume-weighed average lake temperature to trends in climate. We then used a 1-dimensional hydrodynamic model to show that the observed trends in the climatic forcing variables can reasonably explain the observed changes in the lake. Between 1970 and 2002, the volume-weighted mean temperature of the lake increased at an average rate of 0.015 C yr−1. Trends in the climatic drivers include 1) upward trends in maximum and minimum daily air temperature at Tahoe City; and 2) a slight upward trend in downward long-wave radiation. Changes in the thermal structure of the lake include 1) a long-term warming trend, with the highest rates near the surface and at 400 m; 2) an increase in the resistance of the lake to mixing and stratification, as measured by the Schmidt Stability and Birge Work; 3) a trend toward decreasing depth of the October thermocline. The long-term changes in the thermal structure of Lake Tahoe may interact with and exacerbate the well-documented trends in the lake's clarity and primary productivity.