POTENTIAL IMPACTS OF CLIMATE CHANGE ON CALIFORNIA HYDROLOGY1

Authors

  • Norman L. Miller,

  • Kathy E. Bashford,

  • Eric Strem

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    • 2

      Respectively, Staff Scientist and Post-Doctoral Researcher, Berkeley National Laboratory, 90–1116 One Cyclotron Road, Berkeley, California 94720; and Senior Hydrologist, California-Nevada River Forecast Center, NOAA-National Weather Service, 3310 El Camino Avenue, Sacramento, California 95821 (E-Mail/Miller: nlmiller@lbl.gov).


  • 1

    Paper No. 02035 of the Journal of the American Water Resources Association.

Abstract

ABSTRACT: Previous reports based on climate change scenarios have suggested that California will be subjected to increased wintertime and decreased summertime streamflow. Due to the uncertainty of projections in future climate, a new range of potential climatological future temperature shifts and precipitation ratios is applied to the Sacramento Soil Moisture Accounting Model and Anderson Snow Model in order to determine hydrologic sensitivities. Two general circulation models (GCMs) were used in this analysis: one that is warm and wet (HadCM2 run 1) and one that is cool and dry (PCM run B06.06), relative to the GCM projections for California that were part of the Third Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. A set of specified incremental temperature shifts from 1.5°C to 5.0°C and precipitation ratios from 0.70 to 1.30 were also used as input to the snow and soil moisture accounting models, providing for additional scenarios (e.g., warm/dry, cool/wet). Hydrologic calculations were performed for a set of California river basins that extend from the coastal mountains and Sierra Nevada northern region to the southern Sierra Nevada region; these were applied to a water allocation analysis in a companion paper. Results indicate that for all snow-producing cases, a larger proportion of the streamflow volume will occur earlier in the year. The amount and timing is dependent on the characteristics of each basin, particularly the elevation. Increased temperatures lead to a higher freezing line, therefore less snow accumulation and increased melting below the freezing height. The hydrologic response varies for each scenario, and the resulting solution set provides bounds to the range of possible change in streamflow, snowmelt, snow water equivalent, and the change in the magnitude of annual high flows. An important result that appears for all snowmelt driven runoff basins, is that late winter snow accumulation decreases by 50 percent toward the end of this century.

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