Biological and Environmental Research - Earth and Environmental System Sciences
Earth and Environmental System Modeling
19 June 2018

Anthropogenic Warming Impacts on Today’s Sierra Nevada Snowpack and Flood Risk

Warming impacts on snow water equivalent (SWE).
Science

This study investigates temperature impacts to snowpack and runoff-driven flood risk over the Sierra Nevada during the extremely wet year of 2016-2017. Significant findings have been revealed related to recent public-aware precipitation extremes.

Impact

As the drought condition predicts to be more severe and precipitation to be more extreme,  the loss of snowpack and intensified flood risk inform policy-makers for better climate adaptation strategies for water resources supply and flood control.

Summary

This study investigates temperature impacts to snowpack and runoff-driven flood risk over the Sierra Nevada during the extremely wet year of 2016-2017. Significant findings have been revealed related to recent public-aware precipitation extremes. With a reasonably accurate representation of the historical precipitation and snowpack over the Sierra Nevada, results from the offline simulations with perturbed near-surface temperature reveal significant impacts of warming on SWE loss and flood risk. One of the main findings involves the existing impacts of the Sierra Nevada hydrology by human-induced warming and continuing impact under future warming. In a word, current wet year put in the future will be almost like a nowadays' dry year. Along with the snowpack loss, a notable second effect of warming is intensified flood risk due to increased runoff over heavy-rainy days. As the drought condition predicts to be more severe and precipitation to be more extreme,  the loss of snowpack and intensified flood risk inform policy-makers for better climate adaptation strategies for water resources supply and flood control.

Contact
Xingying Huang
University of California - Los Angeles
Publications
Huang, X, AD Hall, and N Berg.  2018.  "Anthropogenic Warming Impacts on Today's Sierra Nevada Snowpack and Flood Risk."  Geophysical Research Letters 45(12): 6215-6222.  https://doi.org/10.1029/2018gl077432.