An important study about the effects of a warming climate on Lake Tahoe and the surrounding Sierra Nevada mountains has just been released by scientists from the United States Geological Survey and the University of California, Davis (my alma mater).
Climate-Change Effects On Lake Tahoe
The news isn’t good. Two important takeaways
- A warmer Lake Tahoe will likely undergo profound compositional and ecological changes that will turn the clear blue water a turbid green from algae growth.
- Precipitation in the surrounding Sierra Nevada mountains will fall more as rain and less as snow. This will affect runoff patterns with increased flooding, and also increase drought as whatever snow does fall melts completely away much earlier in spring and summer.
From an article in the Sacramento Bee:
About 55 percent, on average, of the precipitation at lake level in Tahoe now falls as snow. By 2055, the study predicts snow will drop to about 45 percent – and to just 30 percent by the end of the century.
The result: a shorter ski season, and perhaps a spring without snow-capped peaks ringing the lake, said Robert Coats, lead author of the study and a visiting scholar at UC Davis.
“We’re looking at a shift from snowfall to rainfall, increased melt rate, and earlier melt,” Coats said. “Once you lose the snowpack, then you lose the late-spring water supply. So drought could begin earlier in the year.”
You can read the entire208-page study: “THE EFFECTS OF CLIMATE CHANGE ON LAKE TAHOE IN THE 21st CENTURY: METEOROLOGY, HYDROLOGY, LOADING AND LAKE RESPONSE.”