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Department of Environmental Studies and Sciences

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Environmental Studies and Sciences News & Events

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Mono Lake will be further stressed by climate change

Tuesday, Aug. 14, 2012

 

California’s Mono Lake is already a fragile, water-limited ecosystem, but new research by SCU researchers suggests that global climate change will substantially aggravate problems in the Mono Lake Basin.

SCU faculty members Iris Stewart-Frey (ESS), Ed Maurer (Civil Engineering), and Darren Ficklin (ESS) used downscaled climate models and hydrologic models to project the future conditions in the Mono Lake Basin. Their models suggest that by the end of this century, Mono Lake will likely experience a 15% decrease in annual streamflow, earlier peak snowmelt runoff (shifted from June to May), a decreased occurrence of ‘wet’ hydrologic years, and more frequent drought conditions.

Under a 1983 ruling, the water diversions away from Mono Lake are carefully balanced with the ecological needs of the lake ecosystem. However, this balance has been struck without detailed consideration of the effects of global climate change. This new research suggests that both ecosystem health and water diversions may be affected by reduced water availability in the Mono Lake Basin by the end of the century.

A paper describing this research has been accepted to the journal Climatic Change. 

 

Mono Lake from NASA.gov