Complex, recirculation flow patterns in the south-east portion of Lake Tahoe are clearly evident in the model results for the lake’s surface current speeds.

Three-Dimensional Modeling of Lake Tahoe

1. Three-dimensional computer models allow researchers to study the complex motions that take place within a lake, and to play “what-if” scenarios to better understand the impacts of changing conditions. In recent years, our models of Lake Tahoe have progressed from being able to resolve features down to 200 m (660 feet) to only 20 m (66 feet). When coupled with biological models and particle tracking models, this technology is paving the way for better understanding of lakes around the world

2. Our three-dimensional model Si3D is currently being used to understand the transport of invasive species such as Asian clam larvae, pathogens and other contaminants within Lake Tahoe. The complex patterns produced by the interactions of the wind, the complex shape of Lake Tahoe and the earth’s rotation are key to knowing where contaminants are likely to build up or transported to.  

3. The team of researchers include Dr. Francisco Rueda, Andrea Hoyer and Mario Acosta at the University of Granada, Spain. Funding for our modeling studies has come from SNPLMA, the National Science Foundation, IVGID and NDEP.

This work was partially supported by an EPA/NSF sponsored Water and Watersheds grant through the National Center of  Environmental Research and Quality Assurance (R826282), the U.S. EPA–sponsored (R819658 and R825433) Center for Ecological Health Research at U.C. Davis, and grants 01‐174‐160‐0 and 01‐175‐160‐0 from the Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board.

The surface circulation of Lake Tahoe can be shown using colored markers to acts as tracers. The velocities that move the markers are produced by the three-dimensional hydrodynamic model.