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Keywords:

  • surface water hydrology;
  • regression analysis;
  • statistical models;
  • climate change;
  • Sierra Nevada;
  • temperature;
  • precipitation

ABSTRACT: The sensitivity of streamflow to climate change was investigated in the American, Carson, and Truckee River Basins, California and Nevada. Nine gaging stations were used to represent streamflow in the basins. Annual models were developed by regressing 1961–1991 streamflow data on temperature and precipitation. Climate-change scenarios were used as inputs to the models to determine streamflow sensitivities. Climate-change scenarios were generated from historical time series by modifying mean temperatures by a range of +4°C to—4°C and total precipitation by a range of +25 percent to -25 percent. Results show that streamflow on the warmer, lower west side of the Sierra Nevada generally is more sensitive to temperature and precipitation changes than is streamflow on the colder, higher east side. A 2°C rise in temperature and a 25-percent decrease in precipitation results in stream-flow decreases of 56 percent on the American River and 25 percent on the Carson River. A 2°C decline in temperature and a 25-percent increase in precipitation results in streamflow increases of 102 percent on the American River and 22 percent on the Carson River.