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Lundquist, JD, Cayan DR, Dettinger MD.  2004.  Spring onset in the Sierra Nevada: When is snowmelt independent of elevation? Journal of Hydrometeorology. 5:327-342.   10.1175/1525-7541(2004)005<0327:soitsn>2.0.co;2   AbstractWebsite

Short-term climate and weather systems can have a strong influence on mountain snowmelt, sometimes overwhelming the effects of elevation and aspect. Although most years exhibit a spring onset that starts first at lowest and moves to highest elevations, in spring 2002, flow in a variety of streams within the Tuolumne and Merced River basins of the southern Sierra Nevada all rose synchronously on 29 March. Flow in streams draining small high-altitude glacial subcatchments rose at the same time as that draining much larger basins gauged at lower altitudes, and streams from north- and south-facing cirques rose and fell together. Historical analysis demonstrates that 2002 was one among only 8 yr with such synchronous flow onsets during the past 87 yr, recognized by having simultaneous onsets of snowmelt at over 70% of snow pillow sites, having discharge in over 70% of monitored streams increase simultaneously, and having temperatures increase over 12degreesC within a 5-day period. Synchronous springs tend to begin with a low pressure trough over California during late winter, followed by the onset of a strong ridge and unusually warm temperatures. Synchronous springs are characterized by warmer than average winters and cooler than average March temperatures in California. In the most elevation-dependent, nonsynchronous years, periods of little or no storm activity, with warmer than average March temperatures, precede the onset of spring snowmelt, allowing elevation and aspect to influence snowmelt as spring arrives gradually.

Lundquist, JD, Cayan DR.  2002.  Seasonal and spatial patterns in diurnal cycles in streamflow in the western United States. Journal of Hydrometeorology. 3:591-603.   10.1175/1525-7541(2002)003<0591:saspid>2.0.co;2   AbstractWebsite

The diurnal cycle in streamflow constitutes a significant part of the variability in many rivers in the western United States and can be used to understand some of the dominant processes affecting the water balance of a given river basin. Rivers in which water is added diurnally, as in snowmelt, and rivers in which water is removed diurnally, as in evapotranspiration and infiltration, exhibit substantial differences in the timing, relative magnitude, and shape of their diurnal flow variations. Snowmelt-dominated rivers achieve their highest sustained flow and largest diurnal fluctuations during the spring melt season. These fluctuations are characterized by sharp rises and gradual declines in discharge each day. In large snowmelt-dominated basins, at the end of the melt season, the hour of maximum discharge shifts to later in the day as the snow line retreats to higher elevations. Many evapotranspiration/infiltration-dominated rivers in the western states achieve their highest sustained flows during the winter rainy season but exhibit their strongest diurnal cycles during summer months, when discharge is low, and the diurnal fluctuations compose a large percentage of the total flow. In contrast to snowmelt-dominated rivers, the maximum discharge in evapotranspiration/infiltration-dominated rivers occurs consistently in the morning throughout the summer. In these rivers, diurnal changes are characterized by a gradual rise and sharp decline each day.

Lundquist, JD, Dettinger MD, Cayan DR.  2005.  Snow-fed streamflow timing at different basin scales: Case study of the Tuolumne River above Hetch Hetchy, Yosemite, California. Water Resources Research. 41   10.1029/2004wr003933   AbstractWebsite

Diurnal cycles in snow-fed streams provide a useful technique for measuring the time it takes water to travel from the top of the snowpack, where snowmelt typically peaks in the afternoon, to the river gauge, where the daily maximum flows may arrive many hours later. Hourly stage measurements in nested subbasins (6-775 km(2)) of the Tuolumne River in Yosemite National Park illustrate travel time delays at different basin scales during the spring 2002 and 2003 melt seasons. Travel times increase with longer percolation times through deeper snowpacks, increase with longer travel times over land and along longer stream channels, and increase with slower in-stream flow velocities. In basins smaller than 30 km(2), travel times through the snowpack dominate streamflow timing. In particular, daily peak flows shift to earlier in the day as snowpacks thin and mean discharges increase. In basins larger than 200 km(2), snowpack heterogeneity causes the hour of peak flow to be highly consistent, with little or no variation as the snowpack thins. Basins with areas in between 30 and 200 km(2) exhibit different sequences of diurnal streamflow timing in different years, sometimes acting like small basins and other times like large basins. From the start of the melt season until the day of peak snowmelt discharge, increasing travel distances in channels as the snow line retreats to higher elevations do not cause long enough travel delays to offset the observed decrease in mean travel times through the snowpack. A model that couples porous medium flow through thinning snowpacks with free surface flow in stream channels can reproduce the observed patterns, provided that the model incorporates snowpack heterogeneity.

Lundquist, J, Cayan DR.  2003.  Diurnal cycles in streamflow in the Western United States. Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society. 84:16-17. Abstract
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Lundquist, JD, Roche JW, Forrester H, Moore C, Keenan E, Perry G, Cristea N, Henn B, Lapo K, McGurk B, Cayan DR, Dettinger MD.  2016.  Yosemite Hydroclimate Network: Distributed stream and atmospheric data for the Tuolumne River watershed and surroundings. Water Resources Research. 52:7478-7489.   10.1002/2016wr019261   AbstractWebsite

Regions of complex topography and remote wilderness terrain have spatially varying patterns of temperature and streamflow, but due to inherent difficulties of access, are often very poorly sampled. Here we present a data set of distributed stream stage, streamflow, stream temperature, barometric pressure, and air temperature from the Tuolumne River Watershed in Yosemite National Park, Sierra Nevada, California, USA, for water years 2002-2015, as well as a quality-controlled hourly meteorological forcing time series for use in hydrologic modeling. We also provide snow data and daily inflow to the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir for 1970-2015. This paper describes data collected using low-visibility and low-impact installations for wilderness locations and can be used alone or as a critical supplement to ancillary data sets collected by cooperating agencies, referenced herein. This data set provides a unique opportunity to understand spatial patterns and scaling of hydroclimatic processes in complex terrain and can be used to evaluate downscaling techniques or distributed modeling. The paper also provides an example methodology and lessons learned in conducting hydroclimatic monitoring in remote wilderness.

Lundquist, JD, Cayan DR.  2007.  Surface temperature patterns in complex terrain: Daily variations and long-term change in the central Sierra Nevada, California. Journal of Geophysical Research-Atmospheres. 112   10.1029/2006jd007561   AbstractWebsite

[1] A realistic description of how temperatures vary with elevation is crucial for ecosystem studies and for models of basin-scale snowmelt and spring streamflow. This paper explores surface temperature variability using temperature data from an array of 37 sensors, called the Yosemite network, which traverses both slopes of the Sierra Nevada in the vicinity of Yosemite National Park, California. These data indicate that a simple lapse rate is often a poor description of the spatial temperature structure. Rather, the spatial pattern of temperature over the Yosemite network varies considerably with synoptic conditions. Empirical orthogonal functions (EOFs) were used to identify the dominant spatial temperature patterns and how they vary in time. Temporal variations of these surface temperature patterns were correlated with large-scale weather conditions, as described by National Centers for Environmental Prediction-National Center for Atmospheric Research Reanalysis data. Regression equations were used to downscale larger-scale weather parameters, such as Reanalysis winds and pressure, to the surface temperature structure over the Yosemite network. These relationships demonstrate that strong westerly winds are associated with relatively warmer temperatures on the east slope and cooler temperatures on the west slope of the Sierra, and weaker westerly winds are associated with the opposite pattern. Reanalysis data from 1948 to 2005 indicate weakening westerlies over this time period, a trend leading to relatively cooler temperatures on the east slope over decadal timescales. This trend also appears in long-term observations and demonstrates the need to consider topographic effects when examining long-term changes in mountain regions.

Lundquist, JD, Cayan DR, Dettinger MD.  2003.  Meteorology and hydrology in Yosemite National Park: A sensor network application. Information Processing in Sensor Networks, Proceedings. 2634( Zhao F, Guibas L, Eds.).:518-528., Berlin: Springer-Verlag Berlin Abstract

Over half of California's water supply comes from high elevations in the snowmelt-dominated Sierra Nevada. Natural climate fluctuations, global warming, and the growing needs of water consumers demand intelligent management of this water resource. This requires a comprehensive monitoring system across and within the Sierra Nevada. Unfortunately, because of severe terrain and limited access, few measurements exist. Thus, meteorological and hydrologic processes are not well understood at high altitudes. However, new sensor and wireless communication technologies are beginning to provide sensor packages designed for low maintenance operation, low power consumption and unobtrusive footprints. A prototype network of meteorological and hydrological sensors has been deployed in Yosemite National Park, traversing elevation zones from 1,200 to 3,700 m. Communication techniques must be tailored to suit each location, resulting in a hybrid network of radio, cell-phone, land-line, and satellite transmissions. Results are showing how, in some years, snowmelt may occur quite uniformly over the Sierra, while in others it varies with elevation.

Li, HQ, Kanamitsu M, Hong SY, Yoshimura K, Cayan DR, Misra V, Sun LQ.  2014.  Projected climate change scenario over California by a regional ocean-atmosphere coupled model system. Climatic Change. 122:609-619.   10.1007/s10584-013-1025-8   AbstractWebsite

This study examines a future climate change scenario over California in a 10-km coupled regional downscaling system of the Regional Spectral Model for the atmosphere and the Regional Ocean Modeling System for the ocean forced by the global Community Climate System Model version 3.0 (CCSM3). In summer, the coupled and uncoupled downscaled experiments capture the warming trend of surface air temperature, consistent with the driving CCSM3 forcing. However, the surface warming change along the California coast is weaker in the coupled downscaled experiment than it is in the uncoupled downscaling. Atmospheric cooling due to upwelling along the coast commonly appears in both the present and future climates, but the effect of upwelling is not fully compensated for by the projected large-scale warming in the coupled downscaling experiment. The projected change of extreme warm events is quite different between the coupled and uncoupled downscaling experiments, with the former projecting a more moderate change. The projected future change in precipitation is not significantly different between coupled and uncoupled downscaling. Both the coupled and uncoupled downscaling integrations predict increased onshore sea breeze change in summer daytime and reduced offshore land breeze change in summer nighttime along the coast from the Bay area to Point Conception. Compared to the simulation of present climate, the coupled and uncoupled downscaling experiments predict 17.5 % and 27.5 % fewer Catalina eddy hours in future climate respectively.

Li, HQ, Kanamitsu M, Hong SY, Yoshimura K, Cayan DR, Misra V.  2014.  A high-resolution ocean-atmosphere coupled downscaling of the present climate over California. Climate Dynamics. 42:701-714.   10.1007/s00382-013-1670-7   AbstractWebsite

A fully coupled regional ocean-atmosphere model system that consists of the regional spectral model and the regional ocean modeling system for atmosphere and ocean components, respectively, is applied to downscale the present climate (1985-1994) over California from a global simulation of the Community Climate System Model 3.0 (CCSM3). The horizontal resolution of the regional coupled modeling system is 10 km, while that of the CCSM3 is at a spectral truncation of T85 (approximately 1.4A degrees). The effects of the coupling along the California coast in the boreal summer and winter are highlighted. Evaluation of the sea surface temperature (SST) and 2-m air temperature climatology shows that alleviation of the warm bias along the California coast in the global model output is clear in the regional coupled model run. The 10-m wind is also improved by reducing the northwesterly winds along the coast. The higher resolution coupling effect on the temperature and specific humidity is the largest near the surface, while the significant impact on the wind magnitude appears at a height of approximately 850-hPa heights. The frequency of the Catalina Eddy and its duration are increased by more than 60 % in the coupled downscaling, which is attributed to enhanced offshore sea-breeze. Our study indicates that coupling is vital to regional climate downscaling of mesoscale phenomena over coastal areas.