Climate Change

TERC Research

Meteorological conditions such as air temperature, wind speed, and solar radiation affect physical lake processes including depth of mixing and currents within the lake. This information is critical for water quality modeling. Analyses of long-term air and lake temperature data are providing evidence of global climate change and warming in the Tahoe Basin. With support of the local basin agencies and the National Science Foundation, the UC Davis Tahoe Environmental Research Center (TERC) and its precursors has conducted continuous monitoring of Lake Tahoe since 1968, amassing a unique record of change for one of the world’s most beautiful yet vulnerable lakes. In collaboration with government research agencies, such as the US GeologicalSurvey and NASA/JPL, we have also compiled time series information on the basin’s streams, and on the spatial complexities of the lake’s surface temperatures. Combined with the more than one hundred years of meteorological data that exist for the Tahoe basin, it is now possible to examine this record to look for the impacts of the changing climate on the state of the lake.

This data record has also allowed for the development and calibration of models to look at what the future impacts of climate change are likely to be in the Tahoe basin. The 21st century climate is expected to impact the air temperature, amount and type of precipitation, stream discharge, sediment and nutrient loading, lake temperature, lake mixing, water quality, biodiversity and aquatic invasive species. Awareness of these impacts, and the range of approaches to mitigate or minimize them, is essential for resource management agencies in the Tahoe basin, for decision-makers at all levels of government, and for those living in the Tahoe basin.

Research Projects


What we eat, how we dress, where we work and play, our forests, streams, lakes and landscapes are all influenced by climate. Now the rules are changing at Lake Tahoe and around the world. ...more


Approximately ever 10 days TERC researchers exchange a bucket atop a large research buoy located near the middle of Lake Tahoe. The bucket is partially filled with deionized water and ...more


Stormwater from the urbanized areas around Lake Tahoe is known to be the largest source of clarity reducing contaminants, such as fine particles and nutrients. Using LiDAR data we have been...more


To evaluate the impacts of continued climate change on the Lake Tahoe thermal properties, water level, internal nutrient loading, nutrient cycling, aquatic ecosystem, and other important features of lake limnology...more

The State of Climate Change 2013