Climatic Change

, Volume 116, Issue 1, pp 17-33

First online:

Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.

Projections and downscaling of 21st century temperatures, precipitation, radiative fluxes and winds for the Southwestern US, with focus on Lake Tahoe

  • Michael D. DettingerAffiliated withU.S. Geological Survey, Scripps Institution of Oceanography Email author 


Recent projections of global climate changes in response to increasing greenhouse-gas concentrations in the atmosphere include warming in the Southwestern US and, especially, in the vicinity of Lake Tahoe of from about +3°C to +6°C by end of century and changes in precipitation on the order of 5–10 % increases or (more commonly) decreases, depending on the climate model considered. Along with these basic changes, other climate variables like solar insolation, downwelling (longwave) radiant heat, and winds may change. Together these climate changes may result in changes in the hydrology of the Tahoe basin and potential changes in lake overturning and ecological regimes. Current climate projections, however, are generally spatially too coarse (with grid cells separated by 1 to 2° latitude and longitude) for direct use in assessments of the vulnerabilities of the much smaller Tahoe basin. Thus, daily temperatures, precipitation, winds, and downward radiation fluxes from selected global projections have been downscaled by a statistical method called the constructed-analogues method onto 10 to 12 km grids over the Southwest and especially over Lake Tahoe. Precipitation, solar insolation and winds over the Tahoe basin change only moderately (and with indeterminate signs) in the downscaled projections, whereas temperatures and downward longwave fluxes increase along with imposed increases in global greenhouse-gas concentrations.