An examination of the sensitivity of the Great Salt Lake to changes in inputs
Article first published online: 9 NOV 2012
©2012. American Geophysical Union. All Rights Reserved.
Water Resources Research
Volume 48, Issue 11, November 2012
How to Cite
2012), An examination of the sensitivity of the Great Salt Lake to changes in inputs, Water Resour. Res., 48, W11511, doi:10.1029/2012WR011908., and (
- Issue published online: 9 NOV 2012
- Article first published online: 9 NOV 2012
- Manuscript Revised: 1 OCT 2012
- Manuscript Accepted: 1 OCT 2012
- Manuscript Received: 9 FEB 2012
- Great Salt Lake evaporation;
- Great Salt Lake sensitivity;
- climate change impacts
 The Great Salt Lake is a closed basin lake in which level and volume fluctuate due to differences between inflows and outflows. The only outflow is evaporation, which depends directly on lake area and salinity, both of which depend on lake volume. The lake's level, volume, and area adjust to balance, on average, precipitation and streamflow inflows by evaporation. In this paper, we examine the sensitivity of lake volume changes to precipitation, streamflow, and evaporation and the interactions among these processes and lake area and salinity related to volume. A mass balance model is developed to generate representative realizations of future lake level from climate and streamflow inputs simulated using the k-nearest-neighbor method. Climate and salinity are used to estimate evaporation from the lake using a Penman model adjusted for the salinity-dependent saturation vapor pressure. Our results show that fluctuation in streamflow is the dominant factor in lake level fluctuations, but fluctuations in lake area that modulate evaporation and precipitation directly on the lake are also important. The results also quantify the sensitivity of lake level to changes in streamflow and air temperature inputs. They predict that a 25% decrease in streamflow would reduce lake level by about 66 cm (2.2 feet), while a +4°C air temperature increase would reduce lake level by about 34 cm (1.1 feet) on average. This sensitivity is important in evaluating the impacts of climate change or streamflow change due to increased consumptive water use on the level of the lake.