Climatic Change

, Volume 116, Issue 1, pp 71–95 | Cite as

The response of Lake Tahoe to climate change

  • G. B. SahooEmail author
  • S. G. Schladow
  • J. E. Reuter
  • R. Coats
  • M. Dettinger
  • J. Riverson
  • B. Wolfe
  • M. Costa-Cabral


Meteorology is the driving force for lake internal heating, cooling, mixing, and circulation. Thus continued global warming will affect the lake thermal properties, water level, internal nutrient loading, nutrient cycling, food-web characteristics, fish-habitat, aquatic ecosystem, and other important features of lake limnology. Using a 1-D numerical model—the Lake Clarity Model (LCM) —together with the down-scaled climatic data of the two emissions scenarios (B1 and A2) of the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory (GFDL) Global Circulation Model, we found that Lake Tahoe will likely cease to mix to the bottom after about 2060 for A2 scenario, with an annual mixing depth of less than 200 m as the most common value. Deep mixing, which currently occurs on average every 3–4 years, will (under the GFDL B1 scenario) occur only four times during 2061 to 2098. When the lake fails to completely mix, the bottom waters are not replenished with dissolved oxygen and eventually dissolved oxygen at these depths will be depleted to zero. When this occurs, soluble reactive phosphorus (SRP) and ammonium-nitrogen (both biostimulatory) are released from the deep sediments and contribute approximately 51 % and 14 % of the total SRP and dissolved inorganic nitrogen load, respectively. The lake model suggests that climate change will drive the lake surface level down below the natural rim after 2085 for the GFDL A2 but not the GFDL B1 scenario. The results indicate that continued climate changes could pose serious threats to the characteristics of the Lake that are most highly valued. Future water quality planning must take these results into account.


Emission Scenario Lake Level Soluble Reactive Phosphorous Longwave Radiation Photic Zone 
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.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • G. B. Sahoo
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • S. G. Schladow
    • 1
    • 2
  • J. E. Reuter
    • 1
    • 3
  • R. Coats
    • 3
  • M. Dettinger
    • 4
  • J. Riverson
    • 5
  • B. Wolfe
    • 6
  • M. Costa-Cabral
    • 7
  1. 1.Tahoe Environmental Research CenterUniversity of California DavisDavisUSA
  2. 2.Department of Civil and Environmental EngineeringUniversity of California DavisDavisUSA
  3. 3.Department of Environmental Science and PolicyUniversity of California DavisDavisUSA
  4. 4.US Geological Survey and Scripps Institute of OceanographyLa JollaUSA
  5. 5.Tetra Tech, Inc.FairfaxUSA
  6. 6.Northwest Hydraulic ConsultantsSouth Lake TahoeUSA
  7. 7.Hydrology Futures, LLCSeattleUSA

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