Two New Global Warming Studies Spell Trouble for Lake Tahoe

By Eliza Strickland | November 24, 2010 3:31 pm

TahoeThe Lake Tahoe area on the California-Nevada border can be appreciated from a variety of perspectives: Some people focus on the stunningly beautiful alpine lake nestled in the Sierra Nevada range, while others see it as a mecca for skiers and winter sports enthusiasts. When climate scientists look around, though, they see change. Two recent studies suggest that global warming is already altering that beloved ecosystem.

The first report (pdf), produced by researchers at the UC Davis Tahoe Environmental Research Center, predicts that snowpack melts over the next century will have a drastic impact on both winter tourism and the water supply.

The average snowpack in the northern Sierra Nevada mountains that ring the lake on the California-Nevada border will decline by 40 to 60 percent by 2100 “under the most optimistic projections,” says the report from three researchers at the University of California, Davis.

Under less optimistic models, the melt-off could be accelerated. By the end of the century, precipitation in the region “could be all rain and no snow,” and peak snowmelt in the Upper Truckee River — which is the largest tributary flowing into Lake Tahoe — could occur four to six weeks earlier by 2100, the report says. [New York Times]

The changes to the region’s hydrology could lead to new problems with runoff, erosion, and overflowing stormwater basins. While the researchers note that there is always some uncertainty when predicting far into the future, they also point out that the computer models they used are based on 100 years of data describing the changes in temperature and precipitation that have already occurred in the Tahoe area.

The second study, published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, used infrared (heat) measurements from satellites to examine the changes to the planet’s lakes.

Two NASA scientists used satellite data to look at 104 large inland lakes around the world. They found that on average they have warmed 2 degrees [Celsius] since 1985. That’s about two-and-a-half times the increase in global temperatures in the same time period. [AP]

Lakes in the the Northern Hemisphere’s mid and upper latitudes showed the most warming. That includes Lake Tahoe, which has heated up by 3 degrees Celsius since 1985, putting it behind only Russia’s Lake Ladoga.

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Image: Wikimedia Commons

  • scott

    Regardless of any climate changes, Lake Tahoe faces other threats as well, it will most likely become a warmer, green, murky lake. It’s already struggling with lower visibility and more surface algal blooms due to over use, fertilizer and road runoff, pollution, unburned gas from boats, etc. The south side with the the most development has the worst water in the area, a future sign of what is to come to the entire lake ecosystem.

  • http://whocares BOB SMITH

    this is all bull****

  • s

    blaming “global warming” is lazy science.

    by the way….-30C in Calgary.

    just sayin…

  • scott

    There are so many climate change skeptics on here (above) who just salivate to defend our current polluting and resource sucking lifestyle…always an excuse “Chine does it, Its cold here today”, etc. “There’s frost on the car ma, guess all the liberal elitist are full of cr*p”

    They fail to see the big picture, they fail to see the other downfalls of our methods of resource extraction and use/abuse. They do not take into consideration all the heavy metals, soots, and other toxic wastes that are being poured into the ecosystem and not disposed of properly. OK guys above, even if there was no influence to climate change from mans use of resources, all the chemical pollution would still be a major concern and would be causing problems that needs to be addressed and soon.

    The public has been socially conditioned and has become rabid over daily weather temps and ice melting patterns, ignoring all other toxic aspects chipping away at our ecosystem. Its mostly politically motivated and mixed with their own ignorance on global scale biology and atmospheric/oceanic process. If you take away the climate change argument – we are still in a big toxic mess, so in my view, the climate change argument and defending big polluters, endless economic expansion and wasteful consumption is meaningless.

  • f*** goverment

    Idiots who blindly believe in global warming are well idiots. As pollution is bad, it does not cause global warming. Our planet is being warmed by the sun.. it funny to see that polar icecaps on other planets in our solar system are also melting. Global warming is propaganda to impose new taxes and other regulations and b.s…

    It’s not so hard to believe these goverments are doing this, It was hotter in the 1500 hundreds than it is now. This winter is one of the coldest ones yet in recent years. I thought global warming, warmed the earth? Politicians lie. Do some research, as Siddartha Gautama- “Do not believe in anything simply because you have heard it. Do not believe in anything simply because it is spoken and rumored by many. Do not believe in anything simply because it is found written in your religious books. Do not believe in anything merely on the authority of your teachers and elders. Do not believe in traditions because they have been handed down for many generations. But after observation and analysis, when you find that anything agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and benefit of one and all, then accept it and live up to it.”

    How many people have actually done studies on global warming themselves? These surveys should be not from recent years but from centuries .

  • Chris Winter

    Yes, and what these “skeptics” miss is that we, too, would be happy to take climate change off the list of problems — but there’s just no rational way to do that.

  • s

    Scott – pollution and global warming are too different topics.

    One is real…the other isnt.

    I wholeheartedly agree with your last paragraph.

    Let’s take away this global warming nonesense and deal with the real issue…pollution.

    (at least – i HOPE i interpreted your intent correctly….lol)

  • scott

    I dont think its nonsense per say…we really do not know the whole picture. Perhaps the planet would be getting steamier even if we were not here, but I do think we are – influencing – it, we have to be..come on…all those carbons underground, tucked away, brought up, being spewed into the atmosphere and when considering ocean chemistry and the loss of forest to soak it all up…there are changes happening. The haze in the air above cities and countries alone has affects. But still, I am currently more concered about runoff, toxins in our homes, dumping into rivers and oceans, etc.

    Whoever wins the argument….spewing out billions of tons of gunk and dumping stuff all over and throwing things away wastefully is not in our best interest as a species. Not for the sake of convenience, a closer Wal-Mart, more cheap junk to fill our garages with…

  • Al

    What the denying losers tend to lose sight of is that global warming is about the AVERAGE GLOBAL TEMPERATURE, not your backyard. Sure, someone might have a colder winter than normal. That’s because weather patterns are shifting. The facts don’t lie and the aggregate temperature of the entire planet is getting gradually hotter.

    But, by all means, pretend it isn’t happening and go drive your SUV up to Tahoe to use your jetski.

  • Michael

    “GLOBAL WARMING”, the finniest thing i have ever heared. i do not believe in global warming at all, that is not because i have stron scientific evidence, because it is something made by politics and Politicians, not science, i am quite sure about this.

  • http://N/A Dr.Chuck1

    because politicians are fighting over what to do or not to do doesn’t change global warming into just being all politics-the deniers are just ignorant or just trolling

  • Donna R

    I read an article in a science magazine that suggests that if the Earth heats up. more water will evaporate and more clouds will form, cooling the Earth back down. I believe that all the pollution and carbon emissions are bad for the earth and our health. I also believe that the electric cars is the way we need to go. If nothing else, it will save gasoline and we wont be sitting around wondering how we’ll get around when the oil runs out.

  • rontheking

    what could scientists possibly have to gain from a worldwide conspiracy promoting the theory of global warming? the relative few dissenting scientists are the ones who are getting all the grant money from the fossil fuel industry. if you are going to insist that this is all one big conspiracy, then you should be able to explain who would benefit and how…without a motivating factor your conspiracy theory makes no sense at all….

  • Bill

    The sun must play a role in global warming. We played no part in the interglacial warming period we are now in, nor did we play a role in the past ice ages. The Pleistocene Epoch started about 1.6 million years ago and is the most recent global ice age. The freezes last about 100,000 years with interglacial periods or warm-ups lasting about 20 to 30 thousand years. this has happened 4 or 5 times. We are about 18,000 years into this interglacial period and it stalled a time or two after it started. The mini ice age was just a hiccough in this interglacial period.
    There has been many fluctuations in the climate since the beginning of the interglacial period. Some were warmer, some cooler. Look at the painting of George Washington crossing the Delaware River. He had a hard time crossing it because it was full of ice floes. That was an effect of the “Little Ice Age” and hasn’t been seen for a couple hundred years when the Little Ice Age ended, yet that “extreme” climate was normal for several generations.
    I suspect the sun goes through periods of “helium digestion” following tens of thousands of years consumption of hydrogen. Helium probably accumulates in the core until it interferes with the solar furnace, then has to be re-distributed resulting in “turbulent” times for the sun causing lots of solar eruptions sending lots of energy at us, causing the interglacial periods. Once the helium is re-distributed, the sun quiets down resulting in another freeze.
    This is not to say we are not polluting our planet. The entire planet is badly polluted including the oceans, atmosphere, skies and the space above us. If we don’t clean up our act, we will choke on it. This could have an exacerbating effect.
    Records of the past show elevated levels of CO2 during the warmest climates. Who is to say if this is a cause, or an effect. Perhaps the CO2 rises with the temperature, not the temperature rising with the CO2 levels. We don’t know. I suspect the CO2 is an effect, not the cause.

  • Ed

    Predictions are BS from the people who have that degree. Heck we can’t even predict the weather. It is the only job where you can be partly correct some of the time (partly cloudy or 35% chance of snow or not) and still keep your job. Imagine if business had quality control like that.
    Scientific Method is being corrupted by Belief In Something. No longer do we prove or challenge with expermentation but Tell the masses it’s good for them and make them Comply.
    Then who is responsible for the out come? The weather predictors? The rule makers?
    There is no peer group and no Hard Data from our solar system because the research is being cut off from the space program to make us ignorant and belief relient. People in the 1900’s said we had enough knowledge and everything had been invented This was the result from Predictions.
    Today we know better but do we know that today about global warming? I predict not!

  • Yonderman


    Each side accuses the other of dilusions of some form. Each side claims the the other side only supports their theories because of the profit to be had in supporting it. Can’t we all just get a long and try to understand the other side’s thinking… if that thinking can be expressed logically that is?

    Is Global warming real? Yes. Is it caused by humans? Maybe – we don’t know that considering we’ve only tracked global tempratures for the last 100 years or so. But if humans do have an effect; green house gasses are the least of our worries. And of the green house gasses; Methane is a far bigger worry than Carbon. But in my opinion; the fact that we continue to build and expand the roadways, and build more and bigger homes is the biggest cuplrit of man-aided global warming. We continue to clear away vegetation to build more. And in the winter, those roads, sidewalks, and buildings are cleared of the snow that reflects the sunlight away. That exposed ground, and the homes, soak up sunlight which heats the earth. In turn the melts the snow cover faster exposing more ground. Less vegetation and more exposed ground during the winter is what we need to be the most concerned with … not gasses.

  • Daniel J. Andrews

    Before you say, “It’s the sun”, “we don’t know”, “we’ve only tracked temps for 100 years”, “we can’t predict the weather so how can we predict climate”, “it was hotter x years ago that now” (logical fallacy even if it was true), or getting confused about local conditions versus global conditions, you should read what the science says so you will recognize when you are about to utter unadulterated B.S.

    Of the 16 people who have commented here, 14 of you don’t have even have a beginning of a basic understanding of what you’re talking about. So why do you so confidently jump into comment sections to express your view on something you know next to nothing about to contradict every national academy of science around the world and 98% of the experts in the subject?

    If you want to learn, start with (follow the links to the science to make sure they’ve summarized it correctly—they also have beginner, intermediate and advanced sections for a lot of the material).

    Also, go to which has beginner to advanced sections and will give you the same background.

    And absolute must-read is a Discovery of Global Warming-A History here

    If you have more background and want an actual course in climatology, go here.

    Dr. Archer from U of Chicago has videotaped his lectures and put them on-line. You can even order the textbook to do the exercises. Contact Dr. Archer and he will send you a pdf of the answers.

    If you’re not willing to learn this material, but still willing to comment then at least recognize that you are commenting from the vast pool of your own ignorance. You have no right to get upset when you are called on it by people who have been putting up with this kind of blind willful ignorance for over a decade now. What you “believe” on the subject is irrelevant–this is science, not philosophy.

    If you are willing to learn more though, then scientists and those knowledgeable in the subject are usually pleased to answer any questions you have if you can demonstrate you are putting in the effort to learn. You might be surprised how approachable they are when they’re not being accused of collective incompetence, corruption on a global scale or being part of a world-wide conspiracy.

  • MKGemmell

    THANK YOU Daniel Andrews. I was beginning to wonder if everyone that commented here was completely uneducated. Ignorance can lead to so much destruction. I have been leading by educating others for the past five years on this topic. It is our responsibility to be caretakers of our land, regardless of what we may feel “correct or incorrect.”

    My Dad is a diver for a living. He has always said, “I don’t have to watch an Inconvenient Truth, I’ve seen Global Warming with my own eyes under the water over the past 10 years.” I could spend an hour writing a reply here, but I don’t feel it’s necessary. I hope the others that have commented will take your advice and start to learn the truth as well.


  • Michael F. Sarabia

    I. “While the researchers note that there is always some uncertainty when predicting far into the future, they also point out that the computer models they used are based on 100 years of data describing the changes in temperature and precipitation that have already occurred in the Tahoe area.”
    I understand the key driving forces Warming the Globe, they are true and logical but, (you knew there was going to be a “but”, right?).
    But, to claim support of a major, catastrophic, change on the Earth based on any “100 years of data” seems self-contradictory. If you fail to see this failure, nothing I say will alter your views.
    II. Those of us who understand Global Warming, you know, you and me, sorry, we’re a few, a shrinking few, know, with the certainty of logic and our identity, that energy in the atmosphere is increasing and this is manifested (and clearly seen by us, the remaining few believers) by more cyclones, hurricanes and the unprecedented “swarms” of tornadoes and lightnings (both noted in the last couple of years in the US). All of these might have been predicted, if we understood Global Warming better than we understand the “normal” weather. Remember how many times the TV says “maybe you best take your sunglasses and the raincoat”? But, we want to know how soon will tourism die in Lake Tahoe, right?
    I would hope that we might predict storms, like Katrina, a little better, don’t you?
    The point of all this is that while many of us are sure the globe is getting warmer, on the average, and we know, therefore, the ocean Vapor Pressure will increase, more clouds will form and more rain will fall, some of it in the form of snow.
    Therefore, the water sports, and the population, in Lake Tahoe will grow at an INCREASING rate. If you don’t understand why, maybe you don’t understand Global Warming, right?


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