, Volume 102, Issue 3-4, pp 435-466,
Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.

Climate change in the Tahoe basin: regional trends, impacts and drivers

Abstract

The purpose of this study was to quantify the decadal-scale time trends in air temperature, precipitation phase and intensity, spring snowmelt timing, and lake temperature in the Tahoe basin, and to relate the trends to large-scale regional climatic trends in the western USA. Temperature data for six long-term weather stations in the Tahoe region were analyzed for trends in annual and monthly means of maximum and minimum daily temperature. Precipitation data at Tahoe City were analyzed for trends in phase (rain versus snow), decadal standard deviation, and intensity of rainfall. Daily streamflow data for nine gaging stations in and around the Tahoe basin were examined for trends in snowmelt timing, by two methods, and an existing record for the temperature of Lake Tahoe was updated. The results for the Tahoe basin, which contrast somewhat with the surrounding region, indicate strong upward trends in air temperature, a shift from snow to rain, a shift in snowmelt timing to earlier dates, increased rainfall intensity, increased interannual variability, and continued increase in the temperature of Lake Tahoe. Two hypotheses are suggested that may explain why the basin could be warming faster than surrounding regions. Continued warming in the Tahoe basin has important implications for efforts to manage biodiversity and maintain clarity of the lake.