Tahoe Environmental Research Center

Real-Time Data

Researchers from the Tahoe Environmental Research Center maintain a network of real-time meteorological and lake temperature stations on the water and on land. Along with collaborators from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), TERC has a network of six research buoys and rafts on Lake Tahoe. Serving as research stations, these vessels provide information that ensures Earth-observing satellites are measuring the Earth’s surface temperature correctly. Several environmental satellites, including Terra, Landsat, Aqua, and Envisat, fly over Lake Tahoe to collect data, with about six satellites passing by each day. The NASA and UC Davis scientists have been collaborating to collect data on Lake Tahoe and to validate the data gathered by the environmental satellites since 1999.

These research stations are the only permanently moored objects on the lake and each is a mini-research laboratory. Each has a radiometer that can measure the lake's surface skin temperature to within 0.05 of a degree; a temperature sensor trailing in the water that measures the lake's temperature at depth; and meteorological equipment that determines air temperature, wind speed and direction, pressure, relative humidity, and net radiation.

The research stations seem to be continually growing, as more equipment is added. For example, California's Air Resources Board recently added an air sampler to the stations, and the UC Davis Tahoe Environmental Research Center has put on a deposition sampler to see what is coming into the lake from the air. The deposition sampler enables scientists to measure the amount of nitrogen and dust falling into the lake from the atmosphere.

Temperature data from the research stations can be field-tested for accuracy and compared to the satellites’ measurements for calibration. These validated NASA satellites collect temperature data, which are used for a variety of purposes, such as creating surface temperature maps used in weather forecasting, as often seen on The Weather Channel. The NASA/JPL Tahoe Weather Now site (http://laketahoe.jpl.nasa.gov/get_met_weather)  provides access to the near-real time (NRT) data acquired from these continuous monitoring stations.

Another six meteorological stations are located on land in the watershed surrounding Lake Tahoe. Information such as wind speed, wind direction, wind gust, air temperature, air pressure, radiation, precipitation, relative humidity, and water temperature are available from http://remote.ucdavis.edu/tahoe_location.asp.

The data collected from these stations have multiple uses. UC Davis researchers are investigating lake circulation, clarity loss, and other environmental changes. Geoff Schladow, who has been studying Lake Tahoe for the last eight years, notes that, "Too many nutrients in the water were once thought to be a problem, but in the past few years we started finding that fine sediment has a larger effect on clarity." The satellite data enable Schladow and his colleagues to see temperature changes across the entire lake, making it possible to understand lake circulation and its effect on the transport of fine particles.

Data from the buoy stations and satellites will enable graduate students and researchers to study the physical processes that contribute to Lake Tahoe’s unique clarity and build computer models to categorize and understand these processes. Using the data, students can build their own models in the classroom, and see firsthand the dynamic conditions that exist in these subalpine environments.

Lake Tahoe REMOTE Meteorological Data
UC Davis Real-time Educational Monitoring of the Environment (REMOTE)
USGS Real-Time Water Data for Lake Level at Tahoe City
USGS Real-Time Water Data for Upper Truckee River Discharge
USGS Real-Time Water Data for Blackwood Creek Discharge
USGS Real-Time Water Data for Ward Creek Discharge
USGS Real-Time Water Data for General Creek Discharge
USGS Real-Time Water Data for Incline Creek Discharge
USGS Real-Time Water Data for Lower Truckee River Discharge