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Shukla, S, Steinemann A, Iacobellis SF, Cayan DR.  2015.  Annual drought in California: Association with monthly precipitation and climate phases. Journal of Applied Meteorology and Climatology. 54:2273-2281.   10.1175/jamc-d-15-0167.1   AbstractWebsite

Annual precipitation in California is more variable than in any other state and is highly influenced by precipitation in winter months. A primary question among stakeholders is whether low precipitation in certain months is a harbinger of annual drought in California. Historical precipitation data from 1895 to 2013 are investigated to identify leading monthly indicators of annual drought in each of the seven climate divisions (CDs) as well as statewide. For this study, drought conditions are defined as monthly/annual (October-September) precipitation below the 20th/30th percentile, and a leading indicator is defined as a monthly drought preceding or during an annual drought that has the strongest association (i.e., joint probability of occurrence) with a statewide annual drought. Monthly precipitation variability and contributions to annual precipitation, along with joint probabilities of drought among the winter months, are first analyzed. Then the probabilities of annual drought and the variability in leading indicators are analyzed according to different climate phases and CDs. This study identified December within a water year as being the leading indicator that is most frequently associated with annual drought statewide (56%) and in most of the CDs (the highest was CD2 at 65%). Associated with its leading-indicator status, December drought was most frequently associated with drought in other winter months (joint probability > 30%). Results from this study can help stakeholders to understand and assess the likelihood of annual drought events given monthly precipitation preceding or early in the water year.

Vano, JA, Udall B, Cayan DR, Overpeck JT, Brekke LD, Das T, Hartmann HC, Hidalgo HG, Hoerling M, McCabe GJ, Morino K, Webb RS, Werner K, Lettenmaier DP.  2014.  Understanding uncertainties in future Colorado River streamflow. Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society. 95:59-78.   10.1175/bams-d-12-00228.1   AbstractWebsite

The Colorado River is the primary water source for more than 30 million people in the United States and Mexico. Recent studies that project streamf low changes in the Colorado River all project annual declines, but the magnitude of the projected decreases range from less than 10% to 45% by the mid-twenty-first century. To understand these differences, we address the questions the management community has raised: Why is there such a wide range of projections of impacts of future climate change on Colorado River streamflow, and how should this uncertainty be interpreted? We identify four major sources of disparities among studies that arise from both methodological and model differences. In order of importance, these are differences in 1) the global climate models (GCMs) and emission scenarios used; 2) the ability of land surface and atmospheric models to simulate properly the high-elevation runoff source areas; 3) the sensitivities of land surface hydrology models to precipitation and temperature changes; and 4) the methods used to statistically downscale GCM scenarios. In accounting for these differences, there is substantial evidence across studies that future Colorado River streamflow will be reduced under the current trajectories of anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions because of a combination of strong temperature-induced runoff curtailment and reduced annual precipitation. Reconstructions of preinstrumental streamflows provide additional insights; the greatest risk to Colorado River streamf lows is a multidecadal drought, like that observed in paleoreconstructions, exacerbated by a steady reduction in flows due to climate change. This could result in decades of sustained streamflows much lower than have been observed in the ~100 years of instrumental record.

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.

Stahle, DW, Griffin RD, Meko DM, Therrell MD, Edmondson JR, Cleaveland MK, Stahle LN, Burnette DJ, Abatzoglou JT, Redmond KT, Dettinger MD, Cayan DR.  2013.  The ancient blue oak woodlands of California: Longevity and hydroclimatic history. Earth Interactions. 17   10.1175/2013ei000518.1   AbstractWebsite

Ancient blue oak trees are still widespread across the foothills of the Coast Ranges, Cascades, and Sierra Nevada in California. The most extensive tracts of intact old-growth blue oak woodland appear to survive on rugged and remote terrain in the southern Coast Ranges and on the foothills west and southwest of Mt. Lassen. In the authors' sampling of old-growth stands, most blue oak appear to have recruited to the canopy in the middle to late nineteenth century. The oldest living blue oak tree sampled was over 459 years old, and several dead blue oak logs had over 500 annual rings. Precipitation sensitive tree-ring chronologies up to 700 years long have been developed from old blue oak trees and logs. Annual ring-width chronologies of blue oak are strongly correlated with cool season precipitation totals, streamflow in the major rivers of California, and the estuarine water quality of San Francisco Bay. A new network of 36 blue oak chronologies records spatial anomalies in growth that arise from latitudinal changes in the mean storm track and location of land-falling atmospheric rivers. These long, climate-sensitive blue oak chronologies have been used to reconstruct hydroclimatic history in California and will help to better understand and manage water resources. The environmental history embedded in blue oak growth chronologies may help justify efforts to conserve these authentic old-growth native woodlands.

Pierce, DW, Cayan DR, Das T, Maurer EP, Miller NL, Bao Y, Kanamitsu M, Yoshimura K, Snyder MA, Sloan LC, Franco G, Tyree M.  2013.  The key role of heavy precipitation events in climate model disagreements of future annual precipitation changes in California. Journal of Climate. 26:5879-5896.   10.1175/jcli-d-12-00766.1   AbstractWebsite

Climate model simulations disagree on whether future precipitation will increase or decrease over California, which has impeded efforts to anticipate and adapt to human-induced climate change. This disagreement is explored in terms of daily precipitation frequency and intensity. It is found that divergent model projections of changes in the incidence of rare heavy (>60 mm day(-1)) daily precipitation events explain much of the model disagreement on annual time scales, yet represent only 0.3% of precipitating days and 9% of annual precipitation volume. Of the 25 downscaled model projections examined here, 21 agree that precipitation frequency will decrease by the 2060s, with a mean reduction of 6-14 days yr(-1). This reduces California's mean annual precipitation by about 5.7%. Partly offsetting this, 16 of the 25 projections agree that daily precipitation intensity will increase, which accounts for a model average 5.3% increase in annual precipitation. Between these conflicting tendencies, 12 projections show drier annual conditions by the 2060s and 13 show wetter. These results are obtained from 16 global general circulation models downscaled with different combinations of dynamical methods [Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF), Regional Spectral Model (RSM), and version 3 of the Regional Climate Model (RegCM3)] and statistical methods [bias correction with spatial disaggregation (BCSD) and bias correction with constructed analogs (BCCA)], although not all downscaling methods were applied to each global model. Model disagreements in the projected change in occurrence of the heaviest precipitation days (>60 mm day(-1)) account for the majority of disagreement in the projected change in annual precipitation, and occur preferentially over the Sierra Nevada and Northern California. When such events are excluded, nearly twice as many projections show drier future conditions.

Pierce, DW, Cayan DR.  2013.  The uneven response of different snow measures to human-induced climate warming. Journal of Climate. 26:4148-4167.   10.1175/jcli-d-12-00534.1   AbstractWebsite

The effect of human-induced climate warming on different snow measures in the western United States is compared by calculating the time required to achieve a statistically significant linear trend in the different measures, using time series derived from regionally downscaled global climate models. The measures examined include the water content of the spring snowpack, total cold-season snowfall, fraction of winter precipitation that falls as snow, length of the snow season, and fraction of cold-season precipitation retained in the spring snowpack, as well as temperature and precipitation. Various stakeholders may be interested in different sets of these variables. It is found that temperature and the fraction of winter precipitation that falls as snow exhibit significant trends first, followed in 5-10 years by the fraction of cold-season precipitation retained in the spring snowpack, and later still by the water content of the spring snowpack. Change in total cold-season snowfall is least detectable of all the measures, since it is strongly linked to precipitation, which has large natural variability and only a weak anthropogenic trend in the western United States. Averaging over increasingly wider areas monotonically increases the signal-to-noise ratio of the 1950-2025 linear trend from 0.15 to 0.37, depending on the snow measure.

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.

Pan, LL, Chen SH, Cayan D, Lin MY, Hart Q, Zhang MH, Liu YB, Wang JZ.  2011.  Influences of climate change on California and Nevada regions revealed by a high-resolution dynamical downscaling study. Climate Dynamics. 37:2005-2020.   10.1007/s00382-010-0961-5   AbstractWebsite

In this study, the influence of climate change to California and Nevada regions was investigated through high-resolution (4-km grid spacing) dynamical downscaling using the WRF (Weather Research & Forecasting) model. The dynamical downscaling was performed to both the GFS (Global forecast model) reanalysis (called GFS-WRF runs) from 2000-2006 and PCM (Parallel Climate Model) simulations (called PCM-WRF runs) from 1997-2006 and 2047-2056. The downscaling results were first validated by comparing current model outputs with the observational analysis PRISM (Parameter-elevation Regressions on Independent Slopes Model) dataset. In general, the dominant features from GFS-WRF runs and PCM-WRF runs were consistent with each other, as well as with PRISM results. The influences of climate change on the California and Nevada regions can be inferred from the model future runs. The averaged temperature showed a positive trend in the future, as in other studies. The temperature increases by around 1-2A degrees C under the assumption of business as usual over 50 years. This leads to an upward shifting of the freezing level (the contour line of 0A degrees C temperature) and more rain instead of snow in winter (December, January, and February). More hot days (> 32.2A degrees C or 90A degrees F) and extreme hot days (> 37.8A degrees C or 100A degrees F) are predicted in the Sacramento Valley and the southern parts of California and Nevada during summer (June, July, and August). More precipitation is predicted in northern California but not in southern California. Rainfall frequency slightly increases in the coast regions, but not in the inland area. No obvious trend of the surface wind was indicated. The probability distribution functions (PDF) of daily temperature, wind and precipitation for California and Nevada showed no significant change in shape in either winter or summer. The spatial distributions of precipitation frequency from GFS-WRF and PCM-WRF were highly correlated (r = 0.83). However, overall positive shifts were seen in the temperature field; increases of 2A degrees C for California and 3A degrees C for Nevada in summer and 2.5A degrees C for California and 1.5A degrees C for Nevada in winter. The PDFs predicted higher precipitation in winter and lower precipitation in the summer for both California and Nevada.

Zhao, Z, Chen SH, Kleeman MJ, Tyree M, Cayan D.  2011.  The impact of climate change on air quality-related meteorological conditions in california. Part I: Present time simulation analysis. Journal of Climate. 24:3344-3361.   10.1175/2011jcli3849.1   AbstractWebsite

This study investigates the impacts of climate change on meteorology and air quality conditions in California by dynamically downscaling Parallel Climate Model (PCM) data to high resolution (4 km) using the Weather Research and Forecast (WRF) model. This paper evaluates the present years' (2000-06) downscaling results driven by either PCM or National Centers for Environmental Prediction (NCEP) Global Forecasting System (GFS) reanalysis data. The analyses focused on the air quality-related meteorological variables, such as planetary boundary layer height (PBLH), surface temperature, and wind. The differences of the climatology from the two sets of downscaling simulations and the driving global datasets were compared, which illustrated that most of the biases of the downscaling results were inherited from the driving global climate model (GCM). The downscaling process added mesoscale features but also introduced extra biases into the driving global data. The main source of bias in the PCM data is an imprecise prediction of the location and strength of the Pacific subtropical high (PSH). The analysis implied that using simulation results driven by PCM data as the input for air quality models will likely underestimate air pollution problems in California. Regional-averaged statistics of the downscaling results were estimated for two highly polluted areas, the South Coast Air Basin (SoCAB) and the San Joaquin Valley (SJV), by comparing to observations. The simulations driven by GFS data overestimated surface temperature and wind speed for most of the year, indicating that WRF has systematic errors in these two regions. The simulation matched the observations better during summer than winter in terms of bias. WRF has difficulty reproducing weak surface wind, which normally happens during stagnation events in these two regions. The shallow summer PBLH in the Central Valley is caused by the dominance of high pressure systems over the valley and the strong valley wind during summer. The change of meteorology and air quality in California due to climate change will be explored in Part II of this study, which compares the future (2047-53) and present (2000-06) simulation results driven by PCM data and is presented in a separate paper.

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.

Cayan, DR, Das T, Pierce DW, Barnett TP, Tyree M, Gershunov A.  2010.  Future dryness in the southwest US and the hydrology of the early 21st century drought. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 107:21271-21276.   10.1073/pnas.0912391107   AbstractWebsite

Recently the Southwest has experienced a spate of dryness, which presents a challenge to the sustainability of current water use by human and natural systems in the region. In the Colorado River Basin, the early 21st century drought has been the most extreme in over a century of Colorado River flows, and might occur in any given century with probability of only 60%. However, hydrological model runs from downscaled Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Fourth Assessment climate change simulations suggest that the region is likely to become drier and experience more severe droughts than this. In the latter half of the 21st century the models produced considerably greater drought activity, particularly in the Colorado River Basin, as judged from soil moisture anomalies and other hydrological measures. As in the historical record, most of the simulated extreme droughts build up and persist over many years. Durations of depleted soil moisture over the historical record ranged from 4 to 10 years, but in the 21st century simulations, some of the dry events persisted for 12 years or more. Summers during the observed early 21st century drought were remarkably warm, a feature also evident in many simulated droughts of the 21st century. These severe future droughts are aggravated by enhanced, globally warmed temperatures that reduce spring snowpack and late spring and summer soil moisture. As the climate continues to warm and soil moisture deficits accumulate beyond historical levels, the model simulations suggest that sustaining water supplies in parts of the Southwest will be a challenge.

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.

Gershunov, A, Cayan DR, Iacobellis SF.  2009.  The great 2006 heat wave over California and Nevada: Signal of an increasing trend. Journal of Climate. 22:6181-6203.   10.1175/2009jcli2465.1   AbstractWebsite

Most of the great California-Nevada heat waves can be classified into primarily daytime or nighttime events depending on whether atmospheric conditions are dry or humid. A rash of nighttime-accentuated events in the last decade was punctuated by an unusually intense case in July 2006, which was the largest heat wave on record (1948-2006). Generally, there is a positive trend in heat wave activity over the entire region that is expressed most strongly and clearly in nighttime rather than daytime temperature extremes. This trend in nighttime heat wave activity has intensified markedly since the 1980s and especially since 2000. The two most recent nighttime heat waves were also strongly expressed in extreme daytime temperatures. Circulations associated with great regional heat waves advect hot air into the region. This air can be dry or moist, depending on whether a moisture source is available, causing heat waves to be expressed preferentially during day or night. A remote moisture source centered within a marine region west of Baja California has been increasing in prominence because of gradual sea surface warming and a related increase in atmospheric humidity. Adding to the very strong synoptic dynamics during the 2006 heat wave were a prolonged stream of moisture from this southwestern source and, despite the heightened humidity, an environment in which afternoon convection was suppressed, keeping cloudiness low and daytime temperatures high. The relative contributions of these factors and possible relations to global warming are discussed.

Reisen, WK, Cayan D, Tyree M, Barker CA, Eldridge B, Dettinger M.  2008.  Impact of climate variation on mosquito abundance in California. Journal of Vector Ecology. 33:89-98.   10.3376/1081-1710(2008)33[89:iocvom];2   AbstractWebsite

Temporal variation in the abundance of the encephalitis virus vector mosquito, Culex tarsalis Coquillet, was linked significantly with coincident and antecedent measures of regional climate, including temperature, precipitation, snow pack, and the El Nino/Southern Oscillation anomaly. Although variable among traps, historical records that spanned two to five decades revealed climate influences on spring and summer mosquito abundance as early as the previous fall through early summer. Correlations between winter and spring precipitation and snow pack and spring Cx. tarsalis abundance were stronger than correlations with summer abundance. Spring abundance was also correlated positively with winter and spring temperature, whereas summer abundance correlated negatively with spring temperature and not significantly with summer temperature. Correlations with antecedent climate provide the opportunity to forecast vector abundance and therefore encephalitis virus risk, a capability useful in intervention decision support systems at local and state levels.

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.

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.  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   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, 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.

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.

Biondi, F, Gershunov A, Cayan DR.  2001.  North Pacific decadal climate variability since 1661. Journal of Climate. 14:5-10.   10.1175/1520-0442(2001)014<0005:npdcvs>;2   AbstractWebsite

Climate in the North Pacific and North American sectors has experienced interdecadal shifts during the twentieth century. A network of recently developed tree-ring chronologies for Southern and Baja California extends the instrumental record and reveals decadal-scale variability back to 1661. The Pacific decadal oscillation (PDO) is closely matched by the dominant mode of tree-ring variability that provides a preliminary view of multiannual climate fluctuations spanning the past four centuries. The reconstructed PDO index features a prominent bidecadal oscillation, whose amplitude weakened in the late 1700s to mid-1800s. A comparison with proxy records of ENSO suggests that the greatest decadal-scale oscillations in Pacific climate between 1706 and 1977 occurred around 1750, 1905, and 1947.

Dettinger, MD, Cayan DR.  1995.  Large-scale atmospheric forcing of recent trends toward early snowmelt runoff in California. Journal of Climate. 8:606-623.   10.1175/1520-0442(1995)008<0606:lsafor>;2   AbstractWebsite

Since the late 1940s, snowmelt and runoff have come increasingly early in the water year in many basins in northern and central California. This subtle trend is most pronounced in moderate-altitude basins, which are sensitive to changes in mean winter temperatures. Such basins have broad areas in which winter temperatures are near enough to freezing that small increases result initially in the formation of less snow and eventually in early snowmelt. In moderate-altitude basins of California, a declining fraction of the annual runoff has come in April-June. This decline has been compensated by increased fractions of runoff at other, mostly earlier, times in the water year. Weather stations in central California, including the central Sierra Nevada, have shown trends toward warmer winters since the 1940s. A series of regression analyses indicate that runoff timing responds equally to the observed decadal-scale trends in winter temperature and interannual temperature variations of the same magnitude, suggesting that the temperature trend is sufficient to explain the runoff-timing trends. The immediate cause of the trend toward warmer winters in California is a concurrent, long-term fluctuation in winter atmospheric circulations over the North Pacific Ocean and North America that is not immediately distinguishable from natural atmospheric variability. The fluctuation began to affect California in the 1940s, when the region of strongest low-frequency variation of winter circulations shifted to a part of the central North Pacific Ocean that is teleconnected to California temperatures. Since the late 1940s, winter wind fields have been displaced progressively southward over the central North Pacific and northward over the west coast of North America. These shifts in atmospheric circulations are associated with concurrent shifts in both West Coast air temperatures and North Pacific sea surface temperatures.