Biological and Environmental Research - Earth and Environmental System Sciences
Earth and Environmental System Modeling

Inevitable changes in snowpack and water resources over California’s Sierra Nevada

Wednesday, December 16, 2015 - 08:00 to 08:15
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Here we use a downscaling technique incorporating both dynamical and statistical methods to project end-of-century changes in spring snow water equivalent in California's Sierra Nevada. The technique produces outcomes for all Global Climate Models (GCMs) and the four greenhouse gas forcing scenarios adopted by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). For all GCMs and forcing scenarios, significant snow loss occurs at elevations below 2500 meters, despite increasing precipitation in many GCMs. The loss is significantly enhanced by snow albedo feedback. The approximate intermodel range in percent of total snow remaining in the entire region is 60-85% for a likely “mitigation” scenario, and 35-55% for the “business-as-usual” scenario. Thus significant snowpack decrease by century’s end is inevitable, even if the loss can be cushioned through greenhouse gas emissions reductions over the coming decades. The snowpack loss also leads to significant changes in runoff timing, which are also inevitable.

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