Sustainability Science

, Volume 3, Issue 2, pp 189–199 | Cite as

Impacts of climate change on lakes and reservoirs dynamics and restoration policies

Original Article


Meteorological-driven processes exert large and diverse impacts on lakes and their water quality; these impacts can be hydrologic, thermal, hydraulic, chemical, biochemical, or ecological. The impact of climate change on Lake Tahoe (California–Nevada) was investigated here as a case study of climate change effects on the physical processes occurring within lakes. The already published trends of meteorological variables were used to assess the effects of global warming on Lake Tahoe dynamics. Records from the period 1969–2002 show that Lake Tahoe has became warmer and more stable. A series of simulation years into the future (i.e., 2000–2040) was established using flows, loads, and meteorology data sets for the period 1994–2004. Results of 40-year simulations show that the lake continues to become warmer and more stable, and mixing is reduced. Possible changes in water quality because of global warming are discussed through inference, although these are not specifically simulated. Many existing problems may be exacerbated due to climate change, yet extreme uncertainty depends on the rate and magnitude of climate change. Therefore, shifts in water quality and quantity due to climate change should be integrated into contemporary planning and management in an adaptive manner, and the research and development of impact assessment methodology should focus on approaches that can handle extreme uncertainty. The general alternatives for lake management due to climate change are discussed. Depending on the specific case, further intensive research is suggested to restore lake water quality.


Climate change Lake clarity model Lake or reservoir mixing Lake restoration management scenarios Lake stability Lake water quality 



We thank two anonymous reviewers for helpful comments and suggestions for improvement of the paper. We also wish to acknowledge the efforts of the many faculties, staff and students who have worked at Lake Tahoe in acquiring and maintaining the long-term database that could be used to ground truth modeling results.


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Copyright information

© Integrated Research System for Sustainability Science and Springer 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Tahoe Environmental Research CenterUniversity of California at DavisDavisCAUSA

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