Uncertainty in hydrologic impacts of climate change in the Sierra Nevada, California, under two emissions scenarios
A hydrologic model was driven by the climate projected by 11 GCMs under two emissions scenarios (the higher emission SRES A2 and the lower emission SRES B1) to investigate whether the projected hydrologic changes by 2071–2100 have a high statistical confidence, and to determine the confidence level that the A2 and B1 emissions scenarios produce differing impacts. There are highly significant average temperature increases by 2071–2100 of 3.7°C under A2 and 2.4°C under B1; July increases are 5°C for A2 and 3°C for B1. Two high confidence hydrologic impacts are increasing winter streamflow and decreasing late spring and summer flow. Less snow at the end of winter is a confident projection, as is earlier arrival of the annual flow volume, which has important implications on California water management. The two emissions pathways show some differing impacts with high confidence: the degree of warming expected, the amount of decline in summer low flows, the shift to earlier streamflow timing, and the decline in end-of-winter snow pack, with more extreme impacts under higher emissions in all cases. This indicates that future emissions scenarios play a significant role in the degree of impacts to water resources in California.