Climatic Change

, Volume 116, Issue 1, pp 1–14 | Cite as

Climate variability and change in mountain environments: some implications for water resources and water quality in the Sierra Nevada (USA)

  • Mariza Costa-Cabral
  • Robert Coats
  • John Reuter
  • John Riverson
  • Goloka Sahoo
  • Geoffrey Schladow
  • Brent Wolfe
  • Sujoy B. Roy
  • Limin Chen


This article introduces this special journal issue on climate change impacts on Sierra Nevada water resources and provides a critical summary of major findings and questions that remain open, representing future research opportunities. Some of these questions are long standing, while others emerge from the new research reported in the eight research papers in this special issue. Six of the papers study Eastern Sierra watersheds, which have been under-represented in the recent literature. One of those papers presents hydrologic projections for Owens Valley, benefiting from multi-decadal streamflow records made available by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power for hydrologic model calibration. Taken together, the eight research papers present an image of localized climatic and hydrologic specificity that allows few region-wide conclusions. A source of uncertainty across these studies concerns the inability of the (statistically downscaled) global climate model results that were used to adequately project future changes in key processes including (among others) the precipitation distribution with altitude. Greater availability of regional climate model results in the future will provide research opportunities to project altitudinal shifts in snowfall and rainfall, with important implications to snowmelt timing, streamflow temperatures, and the Eastern Sierra’s precipitation-shadow effect.


Global Climate Model Stream Temperature Snow Water Equivalent Total Maximum Daily Load Mono Lake 
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.



We thank Jessica Lundquist for her review, the literature references she indicated, and for helping identify some of the future research opportunities. We thank Michael Dettinger for downscaling the GCM output, and providing helpful advice on the Tahoe project. This manuscript also benefited from two anonymous reviews.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mariza Costa-Cabral
    • 1
  • Robert Coats
    • 2
    • 3
  • John Reuter
    • 3
    • 5
  • John Riverson
    • 6
  • Goloka Sahoo
    • 3
    • 7
  • Geoffrey Schladow
    • 3
    • 7
  • Brent Wolfe
    • 8
  • Sujoy B. Roy
    • 4
  • Limin Chen
    • 4
  1. 1.Hydrology Futures, LLCSeattleUSA
  2. 2.Hydroikos Ltd.BerkeleyUSA
  3. 3.Tahoe Environmental Research CenterUniversity of CaliforniaDavisUSA
  4. 4.Tetra Tech, Inc., R&DLafayetteUSA
  5. 5.Department of Environmental Science & Policy, University of CaliforniaDavisUSA
  6. 6.Tetra Tech, Inc.FairfaxUSA
  7. 7.Department of Civil & Environmental EngineeringUniversity of CaliforniaDavisUSA
  8. 8.Northwest Hydraulic ConsultantsSouth Lake TahoeUSA

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