Publications

Export 34 results:
Sort by: Author Title Type [ Year  (Desc)]
2018
Knowles, N, Cronkite-Ratcliff C, Pierce DW, Cayan DR.  2018.  Responses of unimpaired flows, storage, and managed flows to scenarios of climate change in the San Francisco Bay-Delta Watershed. Water Resources Research. 54:7631-7650.   10.1029/2018wr022852   AbstractWebsite

Projections of meteorology downscaled from global climate model runs were used to drive a model of unimpaired hydrology of the Sacramento/San Joaquin watershed, which in turn drove models of operational responses and managed flows. Twenty daily climate change scenarios for water years 1980-2099 were evaluated with the goal of producing inflow boundary conditions for a watershed sediment model and for a hydrodynamical model of the San Francisco Bay-Delta estuary. The resulting time series of meteorology, snowpack, unimpaired flow, reservoir storage, and managed flow were analyzed for century-scale trends. In the Sacramento basin, which dominates Bay-Delta inflows, all 20 scenarios portrayed warming trends (with a mean of 4.1 degrees C) and most had precipitation increases (with a mean increase of 9%). Sacramento basin snowpack water equivalent declined sharply (by 89%), which was associated with a major shift toward earlier unimpaired runoff timing (33% more flow arriving prior to 1 April). Sacramento basin reservoirs showed large declines in end-of-September storage. Water-year averaged outflows increased for most scenarios for both unimpaired and impaired flows, and frequency of extremely high daily unimpaired and impaired flows increased (increases of 175% and 170%, respectively). Managed Delta inflows were projected to experience large increases in the wet season and declines in the dry season. Changes in management strategy and infrastructure can mitigate some of these changes, though to what degree is uncertain.

2017
Sumargo, E, Cayan DR.  2017.  Variability of cloudiness over mountain terrain in the western United States. Journal of Hydrometeorology. 18:1227-1245.   10.1175/jhm-d-16-0194.1   AbstractWebsite

This study investigates the spatial and temporal variability of cloudiness across mountain zones in the western United States. Daily average cloud albedo is derived from a 19-yr series (1996-2014) of half-hourly Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite (GOES) images. During springtime when incident radiation is active in driving snowmelt-runoff processes, the magnitude of daily cloud variations can exceed 50% of long-term averages. Even when aggregated over 3-month periods, cloud albedo varies by +/- 10% of long-term averages in many locations. Rotated empirical orthogonal functions (REOFs) of daily cloud albedo anomalies over high-elevation regions of the western conterminous United States identify distinct regional patterns, wherein the first five REOFs account for; similar to 67% of the total variance. REOF1 is centered over Northern California and Oregon and is pronounced between November and March. REOF2 is centered over the interior northwest and is accentuated between March and July. Each of the REOF/rotated principal components (RPC) modes associates with anomalous large-scale atmospheric circulation patterns and one or more large-scale teleconnection indices (Arctic Oscillation, Nino-3.4, and Pacific-North American), which helps to explain why anomalous cloudiness patterns take on regional spatial scales and contain substantial variability over seasonal time scales.

2015
Pierce, DW, Cayan DR, Maurer EP, Abatzoglou JT, Hegewisch KC.  2015.  Improved bias correction techniques for hydrological simulations of climate change. Journal of Hydrometeorology. 16:2421-2442.   10.1175/jhm-d-14-0236.1   AbstractWebsite

Global climate model (GCM) output typically needs to be bias corrected before it can be used for climate change impact studies. Three existing bias correction methods, and a new one developed here, are applied to daily maximum temperature and precipitation from 21 GCMs to investigate how different methods alter the climate change signal of the GCM. The quantile mapping (QM) and cumulative distribution function transform (CDF-t) bias correction methods can significantly alter the GCM's mean climate change signal, with differences of up to 2 degrees C and 30% points for monthly mean temperature and precipitation, respectively. Equidistant quantile matching (EDCDFm) bias correction preserves GCM changes in mean daily maximum temperature but not precipitation. An extension to EDCDFm termed PresRat is introduced, which generally preserves the GCM changes in mean precipitation. Another problem is that GCMs can have difficulty simulating variance as a function of frequency. To address this, a frequency-dependent bias correction method is introduced that is twice as effective as standard bias correction in reducing errors in the models' simulation of variance as a function of frequency, and it does so without making any locations worse, unlike standard bias correction. Last, a preconditioning technique is introduced that improves the simulation of the annual cycle while still allowing the bias correction to take account of an entire season's values at once.

2014
Polade, SD, Pierce DW, Cayan DR, Gershunov A, Dettinger MD.  2014.  The key role of dry days in changing regional climate and precipitation regimes. Scientific Reports. 4   10.1038/srep04364   AbstractWebsite

Future changes in the number of dry days per year can either reinforce or counteract projected increases in daily precipitation intensity as the climate warms. We analyze climate model projected changes in the number of dry days using 28 coupled global climate models from the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project, version 5 (CMIP5). We find that the Mediterranean Sea region, parts of Central and South America, and western Indonesia could experience up to 30 more dry days per year by the end of this century. We illustrate how changes in the number of dry days and the precipitation intensity on precipitating days combine to produce changes in annual precipitation, and show that over much of the subtropics the change in number of dry days dominates the annual changes in precipitation and accounts for a large part of the change in interannual precipitation variability.

2013
Pierce, DW, Das T, Cayan DR, Maurer EP, Miller NL, Bao Y, Kanamitsu M, Yoshimura K, Snyder MA, Sloan LC, Franco G, Tyree M.  2013.  Probabilistic estimates of future changes in California temperature and precipitation using statistical and dynamical downscaling. Climate Dynamics. 40:839-856.   10.1007/s00382-012-1337-9   AbstractWebsite

Sixteen global general circulation models were used to develop probabilistic projections of temperature (T) and precipitation (P) changes over California by the 2060s. The global models were downscaled with two statistical techniques and three nested dynamical regional climate models, although not all global models were downscaled with all techniques. Both monthly and daily timescale changes in T and P are addressed, the latter being important for a range of applications in energy use, water management, and agriculture. The T changes tend to agree more across downscaling techniques than the P changes. Year-to-year natural internal climate variability is roughly of similar magnitude to the projected T changes. In the monthly average, July temperatures shift enough that that the hottest July found in any simulation over the historical period becomes a modestly cool July in the future period. Januarys as cold as any found in the historical period are still found in the 2060s, but the median and maximum monthly average temperatures increase notably. Annual and seasonal P changes are small compared to interannual or intermodel variability. However, the annual change is composed of seasonally varying changes that are themselves much larger, but tend to cancel in the annual mean. Winters show modestly wetter conditions in the North of the state, while spring and autumn show less precipitation. The dynamical downscaling techniques project increasing precipitation in the Southeastern part of the state, which is influenced by the North American monsoon, a feature that is not captured by the statistical downscaling.

2012
Dettinger, MD, Ralph FM, Hughes M, Das T, Neiman P, Cox D, Estes G, Reynolds D, Hartman R, Cayan D, Jones L.  2012.  Design and quantification of an extreme winter storm scenario for emergency preparedness and planning exercises in California. Natural Hazards. 60:1085-1111.   10.1007/s11069-011-9894-5   AbstractWebsite

The USGS Multihazards Project is working with numerous agencies to evaluate and plan for hazards and damages that could be caused by extreme winter storms impacting California. Atmospheric and hydrological aspects of a hypothetical storm scenario have been quantified as a basis for estimation of human, infrastructure, economic, and environmental impacts for emergency-preparedness and flood-planning exercises. In order to ensure scientific defensibility and necessary levels of detail in the scenario description, selected historical storm episodes were concatentated to describe a rapid arrival of several major storms over the state, yielding precipitation totals and runoff rates beyond those occurring during the individual historical storms. This concatenation allowed the scenario designers to avoid arbitrary scalings and is based on historical occasions from the 19th and 20th Centuries when storms have stalled over the state and when extreme storms have arrived in rapid succession. Dynamically consistent, hourly precipitation, temperatures, barometric pressures (for consideration of storm surges and coastal erosion), and winds over California were developed for the so-called ARkStorm scenario by downscaling the concatenated global records of the historical storm sequences onto 6- and 2-km grids using a regional weather model of January 1969 and February 1986 storm conditions. The weather model outputs were then used to force a hydrologic model to simulate ARkStorm runoff, to better understand resulting flooding risks. Methods used to build this scenario can be applied to other emergency, nonemergency and non-California applications.

2011
Cloern, JE, Knowles N, Brown LR, Cayan D, Dettinger MD, Morgan TL, Schoellhamer DH, Stacey MT, van der Wegen M, Wagner RW, Jassby AD.  2011.  Projected evolution of California's San Francisco Bay-Delta-River System in a century of climate change. Plos One. 6   10.1371/journal.pone.0024465   AbstractWebsite

Background: Accumulating evidence shows that the planet is warming as a response to human emissions of greenhouse gases. Strategies of adaptation to climate change will require quantitative projections of how altered regional patterns of temperature, precipitation and sea level could cascade to provoke local impacts such as modified water supplies, increasing risks of coastal flooding, and growing challenges to sustainability of native species. Methodology/Principal Findings: We linked a series of models to investigate responses of California's San Francisco Estuary-Watershed (SFEW) system to two contrasting scenarios of climate change. Model outputs for scenarios of fast and moderate warming are presented as 2010-2099 projections of nine indicators of changing climate, hydrology and habitat quality. Trends of these indicators measure rates of: increasing air and water temperatures, salinity and sea level; decreasing precipitation, runoff, snowmelt contribution to runoff, and suspended sediment concentrations; and increasing frequency of extreme environmental conditions such as water temperatures and sea level beyond the ranges of historical observations. Conclusions/Significance: Most of these environmental indicators change substantially over the 21(st) century, and many would present challenges to natural and managed systems. Adaptations to these changes will require flexible planning to cope with growing risks to humans and the challenges of meeting demands for fresh water and sustaining native biota. Programs of ecosystem rehabilitation and biodiversity conservation in coastal landscapes will be most likely to meet their objectives if they are designed from considerations that include: (1) an integrated perspective that river-estuary systems are influenced by effects of climate change operating on both watersheds and oceans; (2) varying sensitivity among environmental indicators to the uncertainty of future climates; (3) inevitability of biological community changes as responses to cumulative effects of climate change and other drivers of habitat transformations; and (4) anticipation and adaptation to the growing probability of ecosystem regime shifts.

Das, T, Pierce DW, Cayan DR, Vano JA, Lettenmaier DP.  2011.  The importance of warm season warming to western US streamflow changes. Geophysical Research Letters. 38   10.1029/2011gl049660   AbstractWebsite

Warm season climate warming will be a key driver of annual streamflow changes in four major river basins of the western U.S., as shown by hydrological model simulations using fixed precipitation and idealized seasonal temperature changes based on climate projections with SRES A2 forcing. Warm season (April-September) warming reduces streamflow throughout the year; streamflow declines both immediately and in the subsequent cool season. Cool season (October-March) warming, by contrast, increases streamflow immediately, partially compensating for streamflow reductions during the subsequent warm season. A uniform warm season warming of 3 C drives a wide range of annual flow declines across the basins: 13.3%, 7.2%, 1.8%, and 3.6% in the Colorado, Columbia, Northern and Southern Sierra basins, respectively. The same warming applied during the cool season gives annual declines of only 3.5%, 1.7%, 2.1%, and 3.1%, respectively. Citation: Das, T., D. W. Pierce, D. R. Cayan, J. A. Vano, and D. P. Lettenmaier (2011), The importance of warm season warming to western U. S. streamflow changes, Geophys. Res. Lett., 38, L23403, doi: 10.1029/2011GL049660.

Das, T, Dettinger MD, Cayan DR, Hidalgo HG.  2011.  Potential increase in floods in California's Sierra Nevada under future climate projections. Climatic Change. 109:71-94.   10.1007/s10584-011-0298-z   AbstractWebsite

California's mountainous topography, exposure to occasional heavily moisture-laden storm systems, and varied communities and infrastructures in low lying areas make it highly vulnerable to floods. An important question facing the state-in terms of protecting the public and formulating water management responses to climate change-is "how might future climate changes affect flood characteristics in California?" To help address this, we simulate floods on the western slopes of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, the state's primary catchment, based on downscaled daily precipitation and temperature projections from three General Circulation Models (GCMs). These climate projections are fed into the Variable Infiltration Capacity (VIC) hydrologic model, and the VIC-simulated streamflows and hydrologic conditions, from historical and from projected climate change runs, allow us to evaluate possible changes in annual maximum 3-day flood magnitudes and frequencies of floods. By the end of the 21st Century, all projections yield larger-than-historical floods, for both the Northern Sierra Nevada (NSN) and for the Southern Sierra Nevada (SSN). The increases in flood magnitude are statistically significant (at p <= 0.01) for all the three GCMs in the period 2051-2099. The frequency of flood events above selected historical thresholds also increases under projections from CNRM CM3 and NCAR PCM1 climate models, while under the third scenario, GFDL CM2.1, frequencies remain constant or decline slightly, owing to an overall drying trend. These increases appear to derive jointly from increases in heavy precipitation amount, storm frequencies, and days with more precipitation falling as rain and less as snow. Increases in antecedent winter soil moisture also play a role in some areas. Thus, a complex, as-yet unpredictable interplay of several different climatic influences threatens to cause increased flood hazards in California's complex western Sierra landscapes.

Franco, G, Cayan DR, Moser S, Hanemann M, Jones MA.  2011.  Second California Assessment: integrated climate change impacts assessment of natural and managed systems. Climatic Change. 109:1-19.   10.1007/s10584-011-0318-z   AbstractWebsite

Since 2006 the scientific community in California, in cooperation with resource managers, has been conducting periodic statewide studies about the potential impacts of climate change on natural and managed systems. This Special Issue is a compilation of revised papers that originate from the most recent assessment that concluded in 2009. As with the 2006 studies that influenced the passage of California's landmark Global Warming Solutions Act (AB32), these papers have informed policy formulation at the state level, helping bring climate adaptation as a complementary measure to mitigation. We provide here a brief introduction to the papers included in this Special Issue focusing on how they are coordinated and support each other. We describe the common set of downscaled climate and sea-level rise scenarios used in this assessment that came from six different global climate models (GCMs) run under two greenhouse gas emissions scenarios: B1 (low emissions) and A2 (a medium-high emissions). Recommendations for future state assessments, some of which are being implemented in an on-going new assessment that will be completed in 2012, are offered.

2010
Maurer, EP, Hidalgo HG, Das T, Dettinger MD, Cayan DR.  2010.  The utility of daily large-scale climate data in the assessment of climate change impacts on daily streamflow in California. Hydrology and Earth System Sciences. 14:1125-1138.   10.5194/hess-14-1125-2010   AbstractWebsite

Three statistical downscaling methods were applied to NCEP/NCAR reanalysis (used as a surrogate for the best possible general circulation model), and the downscaled meteorology was used to drive a hydrologic model over California. The historic record was divided into an 'observed' period of 1950-1976 to provide the basis for downscaling, and a 'projected' period of 1977-1999 for assessing skill. The downscaling methods included a bias-correction/spatial downscaling method (BCSD), which relies solely on monthly large scale meteorology and resamples the historical record to obtain daily sequences, a constructed analogues approach (CA), which uses daily large-scale anomalies, and a hybrid method (BCCA) using a quantile-mapping bias correction on the large-scale data prior to the CA approach. At 11 sites we compared three simulated daily flow statistics: streamflow timing, 3-day peak flow, and 7-day low flow. While all downscaling methods produced reasonable streamflow statistics at most locations, the BCCA method consistently outperformed the other methods, capturing the daily large-scale skill and translating it to simulated streamflows that more skillfully reproduced observationally-driven streamflows.

2009
Hidalgo, HG, Das T, Dettinger MD, Cayan DR, Pierce DW, Barnett TP, Bala G, Mirin A, Wood AW, Bonfils C, Santer BD, Nozawa T.  2009.  Detection and attribution of streamflow timing changes to climate change in the western United States. Journal of Climate. 22:3838-3855.   10.1175/2009jcli2470.1   AbstractWebsite

This article applies formal detection and attribution techniques to investigate the nature of observed shifts in the timing of streamflow in the western United States. Previous studies have shown that the snow hydrology of the western United States has changed in the second half of the twentieth century. Such changes manifest themselves in the form of more rain and less snow, in reductions in the snow water contents, and in earlier snowmelt and associated advances in streamflow "center'' timing (the day in the "water-year'' on average when half the water-year flow at a point has passed). However, with one exception over a more limited domain, no other study has attempted to formally attribute these changes to anthropogenic increases of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Using the observations together with a set of global climate model simulations and a hydrologic model (applied to three major hydrological regions of the western United States-the California region, the upper Colorado River basin, and the Columbia River basin), it is found that the observed trends toward earlier "center'' timing of snowmelt-driven streamflows in the western United States since 1950 are detectably different from natural variability (significant at the p < 0.05 level). Furthermore, the nonnatural parts of these changes can be attributed confidently to climate changes induced by anthropogenic greenhouse gases, aerosols, ozone, and land use. The signal from the Columbia dominates the analysis, and it is the only basin that showed a detectable signal when the analysis was performed on individual basins. It should be noted that although climate change is an important signal, other climatic processes have also contributed to the hydrologic variability of large basins in the western United States.

Das, T, Hidalgo HG, Dettinger MD, Cayan DR, Pierce DW, Bonfils C, Barnett TP, Bala G, Mirin A.  2009.  Structure and detectability of trends in hydrological measures over the western United States. Journal of Hydrometeorology. 10:871-892.   10.1175/2009jhm1095.1   AbstractWebsite

This study examines the geographic structure of observed trends in key hydrologically relevant variables across the western United States at (1)/(8)degrees spatial resolution during the period 1950-99. Geographical regions, latitude bands, and elevation classes where these trends are statistically significantly different from trends associated with natural climate variations are identified. Variables analyzed include late-winter and spring temperature, winter-total snowy days as a fraction of winter-total wet days, 1 April snow water equivalent (SWE) as a fraction of October-March (ONDJFM) precipitation total [precip(ONDJFM)], and seasonal [JFM] accumulated runoff as a fraction of water-year accumulated runoff. Observed changes were compared to natural internal climate variability simulated by an 850-yr control run of the finite volume version of the Community Climate System Model, version 3 (CCSM3-FV), statistically downscaled to a (1)/(8)degrees grid using the method of constructed analogs. Both observed and downscaled model temperature and precipitation data were then used to drive the Variable Infiltration Capacity (VIC) hydrological model to obtain the hydrological variables analyzed in this study. Large trends (magnitudes found less than 5% of the time in the long control run) are common in the observations and occupy a substantial part (37%-42%) of the mountainous western United States. These trends are strongly related to the large-scale warming that appears over 89% of the domain. The strongest changes in the hydrologic variables, unlikely to be associated with natural variability alone, have occurred at medium elevations [750-2500 m for JFM runoff fractions and 500-3000 m for SWE/Precip(ONDJFM)] where warming has pushed temperatures from slightly below to slightly above freezing. Further analysis using the data on selected catchments indicates that hydroclimatic variables must have changed significantly (at 95% confidence level) over at least 45% of the total catchment area to achieve a detectable trend in measures accumulated to the catchment scale.

2008
Mahmud, A, Tyree M, Cayan D, Motallebi N, Kleeman MJ.  2008.  Statistical downscaling of climate change impacts on ozone concentrations in California. Journal of Geophysical Research-Atmospheres. 113   10.1029/2007jd009534   AbstractWebsite

The statistical relationship between the daily 1-hour maximum ozone (O(3)) concentrations and the daily maximum upper air temperature was explored for California's two most heavily polluted air basins: the South Coast Air Basin (SoCAB) and the San Joaquin Valley Air Basin (SJVAB). A coarse-scale analysis of the temperature at an elevation of 850-mbar pressure (T850) for the period 1980-2004 was obtained from the National Center for Environmental Prediction (NCEP)/National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) Reanalysis data set for grid points near Upland (SoCAB) and Parlier (SJVAB). Daily 1-hour maximum ozone concentrations were obtained from the California Air Resources Board (CARB) for these locations over the same time period. The ozone concentrations measured at any given value of the Reanalysis T850 were approximately normally distributed. The 25%, 50%, and 75% quartile ozone concentrations increased linearly with T850, reflecting the effect of temperature on emissions and chemical reaction rates. A 2D Lagrangian (trajectory) form of the UCD/CIT photochemical air quality model was used in a perturbation study to explain the variability of the ozone concentrations at each value of T850. Wind speed, wind direction, temperature, relative humidity, mixing height, initial concentrations for VOC concentrations, background ozone concentrations, time of year, and overall emissions were perturbed in a realistic fashion during this study. A total of 62 model simulations were performed, and the results were analyzed to show that long-term changes to emissions inventories were the largest sources of ozone variability at a fixed value of T850. Projections of future T850 values in California were obtained from the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory (GFDL) model under the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) A2 and B1 emissions scenarios for the years 2001 to 2100. The future temperature trends combined with the historical statistical relationships suggest that an additional 22-30 days year(-1) in California would experience O(3) >= 90 ppb under the A2 global emissions scenario, and an additional 6-13 days year(-1) would experience O(3) >= 90 ppb under the B1 global emissions scenario by the year 2050 (assuming the NO(x) and VOC emissions remained at 1990-2004 levels). These calculations help to quantify the climate "penalty" that must be overcome to improve air quality in California.

Barnett, TP, Pierce DW, Hidalgo HG, Bonfils C, Santer BD, Das T, Bala G, Wood AW, Nozawa T, Mirin AA, Cayan DR, Dettinger MD.  2008.  Human-induced changes in the hydrology of the western United States. Science. 319:1080-1083.   10.1126/science.1152538   AbstractWebsite

Observations have shown that the hydrological cycle of the western United States changed significantly over the last half of the 20th century. We present a regional, multivariable climate change detection and attribution study, using a high- resolution hydrologic model forced by global climate models, focusing on the changes that have already affected this primarily arid region with a large and growing population. The results show that up to 60% of the climate- related trends of river flow, winter air temperature, and snow pack between 1950 and 1999 are human- induced. These results are robust to perturbation of study variates and methods. They portend, in conjunction with previous work, a coming crisis in water supply for the western United States.

Kueppers, LM, Snyder MA, Sloan LC, Cayan D, Jin J, Kanamaru H, Kanamitsu M, Miller NL, Tyree M, Due H, Weare B.  2008.  Seasonal temperature responses to land-use change in the western United States. Global and Planetary Change. 60:250-264.   10.1016/j.gloplacha.2007.03.005   AbstractWebsite

In the western United States, more than 79 000 km 2 has been converted to irrigated agriculture and urban areas. These changes have the potential to alter surface temperature by modifying the energy budget at the land-atmosphere interface. This study reports the seasonally varying temperature responses of four regional climate models (RCMs) - RSM, RegCM3, MM5-CLM3, and DRCM - to conversion of potential natural vegetation to modern land-cover and land-use over a 1-year period. Three of the RCMs supplemented soil moisture, producing large decreases in the August mean (- 1.4 to -3.1 degrees C) and maximum (-2.9 to -6.1 degrees C) 2-m air temperatures where natural vegetation was converted to irrigated agriculture. Conversion to irrigated agriculture also resulted in large increases in relative humidity (9% to 36% absolute change). Modeled changes in the August minimum 2-m air temperature were not as pronounced or consistent across the models. Converting natural vegetation to urban land-cover produced less pronounced temperature effects in all models, with the magnitude of the effect dependent upon the preexisting vegetation type and urban parameterizations. Overall, the RCM results indicate that the temperature impacts of land-use change are most pronounced during the summer months, when surface heating is strongest and differences in surface soil moisture between irrigated land and natural vegetation are largest. (c) 2007 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

Bonfils, C, Santer BD, Pierce DW, Hidalgo HG, Bala G, Das T, Barnett TP, Cayan DR, Doutriaux C, Wood AW, Mirin A, Nozawa T.  2008.  Detection and attribution of temperature changes in the mountainous western United States. Journal of Climate. 21:6404-6424.   10.1175/2008jcli2397.1   AbstractWebsite

Large changes in the hydrology of the western United States have been observed since the mid-twentieth century. These include a reduction in the amount of precipitation arriving as snow, a decline in snowpack at low and midelevations, and a shift toward earlier arrival of both snowmelt and the centroid (center of mass) of streamflows. To project future water supply reliability, it is crucial to obtain a better understanding of the underlying cause or causes for these changes. A regional warming is often posited as the cause of these changes without formal testing of different competitive explanations for the warming. In this study, a rigorous detection and attribution analysis is performed to determine the causes of the late winter/early spring changes in hydrologically relevant temperature variables over mountain ranges of the western United States. Natural internal climate variability, as estimated from two long control climate model simulations, is insufficient to explain the rapid increase in daily minimum and maximum temperatures, the sharp decline in frost days, and the rise in degree-days above 0 degrees C (a simple proxy for temperature-driven snowmelt). These observed changes are also inconsistent with the model-predicted responses to variability in solar irradiance and volcanic activity. The observations are consistent with climate simulations that include the combined effects of anthropogenic greenhouse gases and aerosols. It is found that, for each temperature variable considered, an anthropogenic signal is identifiable in observational fields. The results are robust to uncertainties in model-estimated fingerprints and natural variability noise, to the choice of statistical down-scaling method, and to various processing options in the detection and attribution method.

2007
Maurer, EP, Stewart IT, Bonfils C, Duffy PB, Cayan D.  2007.  Detection, attribution, and sensitivity of trends toward earlier streamflow in the Sierra Nevada. Journal of Geophysical Research-Atmospheres. 112   10.1029/2006jd008088   AbstractWebsite

[1] Observed changes in the timing of snowmelt dominated streamflow in the western United States are often linked to anthropogenic or other external causes. We assess whether observed streamflow timing changes can be statistically attributed to external forcing, or whether they still lie within the bounds of natural ( internal) variability for four large Sierra Nevada ( CA) basins, at inflow points to major reservoirs. Streamflow timing is measured by "center timing'' (CT), the day when half the annual flow has passed a given point. We use a physically based hydrology model driven by meteorological input from a global climate model to quantify the natural variability in CT trends. Estimated 50-year trends in CT due to natural climate variability often exceed estimated actual CT trends from 1950 to 1999. Thus, although observed trends in CT to date may be statistically significant, they cannot yet be statistically attributed to external influences on climate. We estimate that projected CT changes at the four major reservoir inflows will, with 90% confidence, exceed those from natural variability within 1 - 4 decades or 4 - 8 decades, depending on rates of future greenhouse gas emissions. To identify areas most likely to exhibit CT changes in response to rising temperatures, we calculate changes in CT under temperature increases from 1 to 5 degrees. We find that areas with average winter temperatures between -2 degrees C and -4 degrees C are most likely to respond with significant CT shifts. Correspondingly, elevations from 2000 to 2800 m are most sensitive to temperature increases, with CT changes exceeding 45 days ( earlier) relative to 1961 - 1990.

2004
Stewart, IT, Cayan DR, Dettinger MD.  2004.  Changes in snowmelt runoff timing in western North America under a 'business as usual' climate change scenario. Climatic Change. 62:217-232.   10.1023/B:CLIM.0000013702.22656.e8   AbstractWebsite

Spring snowmelt is the most important contribution of many rivers in western North America. If climate changes, this contribution may change. A shift in the timing of springtime snowmelt towards earlier in the year already is observed during 1948 - 2000 in many western rivers. Streamflow timing changes for the 1995 - 2099 period are projected using regression relations between observed streamflow-timing responses in each river, measured by the temporal centroid of streamflow (CT) each year, and local temperature (TI) and precipitation ( PI) indices. Under 21st century warming trends predicted by the Parallel Climate Model (PCM) under business-as-usual greenhouse-gas emissions, streamflow timing trends across much of western North America suggest even earlier springtime snowmelt than observed to date. Projected CT changes are consistent with observed rates and directions of change during the past five decades, and are strongest in the Pacific Northwest, Sierra Nevada, and Rocky Mountains, where many rivers eventually run 30 - 40 days earlier. The modest PI changes projected by PCM yield minimal CT changes. The responses of CT to the simultaneous effects of projected TI and PI trends are dominated by the TI changes. Regression-based CT projections agree with those from physically-based simulations of rivers in the Pacific Northwest and Sierra Nevada.

Knowles, N, Cayan DR.  2004.  Elevational dependence of projected hydrologic changes in the San Francisco Estuary and watershed. Climatic Change. 62:319-336.   10.1023/B:CLIM.0000013696.14308.b9   AbstractWebsite

California's primary hydrologic system, the San Francisco Estuary and its upstream watershed, is vulnerable to the regional hydrologic consequences of projected global climate change. Previous work has shown that a projected warming would result in a reduction of snowpack storage leading to higher winter and lower spring-summer streamflows and increased spring-summer salinities in the estuary. The present work shows that these hydrologic changes exhibit a strong dependence on elevation, with the greatest loss of snowpack volume in the 1300 - 2700 m elevation range. Exploiting hydrologic and estuarine modeling capabilities to trace water as it moves through the system reveals that the shift of water in mid-elevations of the Sacramento river basin from snowmelt to rainfall runoff is the dominant cause of projected changes in estuarine inflows and salinity. Additionally, although spring-summer losses of estuarine inflows are balanced by winter gains, the losses have a stronger influence on salinity since longer spring-summer residence times allow the inflow changes to accumulate in the estuary. The changes in inflows sourced in the Sacramento River basin in approximately the 1300 - 2200 m elevation range thereby lead to a net increase in estuarine salinity under the projected warming. Such changes would impact ecosystems throughout the watershed and threaten to contaminate much of California's freshwater supply.

Dettinger, MD, Cayan DR, Meyer M, Jeton AE.  2004.  Simulated hydrologic responses to climate variations and change in the Merced, Carson, and American River basins, Sierra Nevada, California, 1900-2099. Climatic Change. 62:283-317.   10.1023/B:CLIM.0000013683.13346.4f   AbstractWebsite

Hydrologic responses of river basins in the Sierra Nevada of California to historical and future climate variations and changes are assessed by simulating daily streamflow and water-balance responses to simulated climate variations over a continuous 200-yr period. The coupled atmosphere-ocean-ice-land Parallel Climate Model provides the simulated climate histories, and existing hydrologic models of the Merced, Carson, and American Rivers are used to simulate the basin responses. The historical simulations yield stationary climate and hydrologic variations through the first part of the 20th century until about 1975 when temperatures begin to warm noticeably and when snowmelt and streamflow peaks begin to occur progressively earlier within the seasonal cycle. A future climate simulated with business-as-usual increases in greenhouse-gas and aerosol radiative forcings continues those recent trends through the 21st century with an attendant + 2.5 degreesC warming and a hastening of snowmelt and streamflow within the seasonal cycle by almost a month. The various projected trends in the business-as-usual simulations become readily visible despite realistic simulated natural climatic and hydrologic variability by about 2025. In contrast to these changes that are mostly associated with streamflow timing, long-term average totals of streamflow and other hydrologic fluxes remain similar to the historical mean in all three simulations. A control simulation in which radiative forcings are held constant at 1995 levels for the 50 years following 1995 yields climate and streamflow timing conditions much like the 1980s and 1990s throughout its duration. The availability of continuous climate-change projection outputs and careful design of initial conditions and control experiments, like those utilized here, promise to improve the quality and usability of future climate-change impact assessments.

Dettinger, M, Redmond K, Cayan D.  2004.  Winter orographic precipitation ratios in the Sierra Nevada: Large-scale atmospheric circulations and hydrologic consequences. Journal of Hydrometeorology. 5:1102-1116.   10.1175/jhm-390.1   AbstractWebsite

The extent to which winter precipitation is orographically enhanced within the Sierra Nevada of California varies from storm to storm, and season to season, from occasions when precipitation rates at low and high altitudes are almost the same to instances when precipitation rates at middle elevations ( considered here) can be as much as 30 times more than at the base of the range. Analyses of large-scale conditions associated with orographic precipitation variations during storms and seasons from 1954 to 1999 show that strongly orographic storms most commonly have winds that transport water vapor across the range from a more nearly westerly direction than during less orographic storms and than during the largest overall storms, and generally the strongly orographic storms are less convectively stable. Strongly orographic conditions often follow heavy precipitation events because both of these wind conditions are present in midlatitude cyclones that form the cores of many Sierra Nevada storms. Storms during La Nina winters tend to yield larger orographic ratios (ORs) than do those during El Ninos. A simple experiment with a model of streamflows from a river basin draining the central Sierra Nevada indicates that, for a fixed overall basin-precipitation amount, a decrease in OR contributes to larger winter flood peaks and smaller springtime flows, and thus to an overall hastening of the runoff season.

Hayhoe, K, Cayan D, Field CB, Frumhoff PC, Maurer EP, Miller NL, Moser SC, Schneider SH, Cahill KN, Cleland EE, Dale L, Drapek R, Hanemann RM, Kalkstein LS, Lenihan J, Lunch CK, Neilson RP, Sheridan SC, Verville JH.  2004.  Emissions pathways, climate change, and impacts on California. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 101:12422-12427.   10.1073/pnas.0404500101   AbstractWebsite

The magnitude of future climate change depends substantially on the greenhouse gas emission pathways we choose. Here we explore the implications of the highest and lowest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change emissions pathways for climate change and associated impacts in California. Based on climate projections from two state-of-the-art climate models with low and medium sensitivity (Parallel Climate Model and Hadley Centre Climate Model, version 3, respectively), we find that annual temperature increases nearly double from the lower B1 to the higher A1fi emissions scenario before 2100. Three of four simulations also show greater increases in summer temperatures as compared with winter. Extreme heat and the associated impacts on a range of temperature-sensitive sectors are substantially greater under the higher emissions scenario, with some interscenario differences apparent before midcentury. By the end of the century under the B1 scenario, heatwaves and extreme heat in Los Angeles quadruple in frequency while heat-related mortality increases two to three times; alpine/subalpine forests are reduced by 50-75%; and Sierra snowpack is reduced 30-70%. Under A1fi, heatwaves in Los Angeles are six to eight times more frequent, with heat-related excess mortality increasing five to seven times; alpine/subalpine forests are reduced by 75-90%; and snowpack declines 73-90%, with cascading impacts on runoff and streamflow that, combined with projected modest declines in winter precipitation, could fundamentally disrupt California's water rights system. Although interscenario differences in climate impacts and costs of adaptation emerge mainly in the second half of the century, they are strongly dependent on emissions from preceding decades.

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.

2002
Knowles, N, Cayan DR.  2002.  Potential effects of global warming on the Sacramento/San Joaquin watershed and the San Francisco estuary. Geophysical Research Letters. 29   10.1029/2001gl014339   AbstractWebsite

[1] California's primary hydrologic system, the San Francisco estuary and its upstream watershed, is vulnerable to the regional hydrologic consequences of projected global climate change. Projected temperature anomalies from a global climate model are used to drive a combined model of watershed hydrology and estuarine dynamics. By 2090, a projected temperature increase of 2.1degreesC results in a loss of about half of the average April snowpack storage, with greatest losses in the northern headwaters. Consequently, spring runoff is reduced by 5.6 km(3) (similar to20% of historical annual runoff), with associated increases in winter flood peaks. The smaller spring flows yield spring/summer salinity increases of up to 9 psu, with larger increases in wet years.