Climatic Change

, Volume 116, Issue 1, pp 51–69 | Cite as

Projected 21st century trends in hydroclimatology of the Tahoe basin

  • Robert Coats
  • Mariza Costa-Cabral
  • John Riverson
  • John Reuter
  • Goloka Sahoo
  • Geoffrey Schladow
  • Brent Wolfe


With down-scaled output from two General Circulation Models (the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory, or GFDL, and the Parallel Climate Model, or PCM) and two emissions scenarios (A2 and B1), we project future trends in temperature and precipitation for the Tahoe basin. With the GFDL, we also project drought conditions and (through the use of a distributed hydrologic model) flood frequency. The steepest trend (GFDL with A2) indicates a 4–5°C warming by the end of the 21st century. Trends in annual precipitation are more modest with a dip in the latter half of the 21st century indicated by the GFDL/A2 case, but not the others. Comparisons with the Palmer Drought Severity Index show that drought will increase, in part due to the declining role of the snowpack as a reservoir for soil moisture replenishment. Analysis of flood frequency for the largest watershed in the basin indicates that the magnitude of the 100-yr flood could increase up to 2.5-fold for the middle third of the century, but decline thereafter as the climate warms and dries. These trends have major implications for the management of land and water resources in the Tahoe basin, as well as for design and maintenance of infrastructure.


Flood Frequency Palmer Drought Severity Index Flow Duration Curve Variable Infiltration Capacity Model Parallel Climate Model 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



The Tahoe Climate Change Project was supported by grant #08-DG-11272170-101 from the USDA Forest Service Pacific Southwest Research Station using funds provided by the Bureau of Land Management through the sale of public lands as authorized by the Southern Nevada Public Land Management Act. We thank Jonathan Long for his patience and administrative help, and Jack Lewis for helpful suggestions.

Supplementary material

10584_2012_425_MOESM1_ESM.doc (1.1 mb)
ESM 1 (DOC 1176 kb)
10584_2012_425_MOESM2_ESM.doc (44 kb)
ESM 1 (DOC 44 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Robert Coats
    • 1
  • Mariza Costa-Cabral
    • 2
  • John Riverson
    • 3
  • John Reuter
    • 1
  • Goloka Sahoo
    • 4
  • Geoffrey Schladow
    • 4
  • Brent Wolfe
    • 5
  1. 1.University of California Tahoe Environmental Research CenterDavisUSA
  2. 2.Hydrology FuturesSeattleUSA
  3. 3.Tetra Tech IncFairfaxUSA
  4. 4.Department Civil & Environ. EngUniversity of California Tahoe Environmental Research CenterDavisUSA
  5. 5.Northwest Hydraulic Consultants, IncSacramentoUSA

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