Climate Monitoring

Late-lying snow lingers over Lake South America, surrounded by rugged peaks, Sequoia National Park. Photo by Mandy Holmgren
Late-lying snow, Lake South America, Sequoia National Park. The Sierra Nevada snowpack is like a natural reservoir, releasing water as it melts in spring and early summer. This snow is important to the parks as well as to regional water supplies.

Photo: Mandy Holmgren, The Institute for Bird Populations

Overview

Climate is a major driver of Sierra Nevada ecosystems, with temperature and precipitation being the most important factors. Current patterns of vegetation, streamflow, fire regimes, nutrient cycling, soils, and animal distributions are determined largely by cumulative effects of past and present climates.

Climate change is anticipated to have pronounced effects in the Sierra Nevada. Warming temperatures are already resulting in more of the region's precipitation falling as rain rather than snow, decreasing snowpack water content, and an earlier melt of the snowpack. The Sierra Nevada snowpack has a critical role in providing the region a natural reservoir that releases water gradually as snow melts through the spring and early summer seasons.

Tracking changes in both short-term weather conditions (such as current temperature and recent precipitation) and long-term climate patterns is critical information for park managers. For example, accurate climate and weather data inform decisions related to fire management, pack stock grazing in meadows, non-native plant control, and park facilities opening and closing dates. Scientists and managers use climate data to better understand and interpret changes in other indicators monitored, such as river hydrology, bird populations, and forests.

Scientist climbs weather station tower to make equipment adjustments near Soda Springs Meadow at Devils Postpile National Monument.
The meteorological station at Devils Postpile National Monument is one of numerous weather monitoring stations that Sierra Nevada Network uses to track weather and climate. This photo shows a California Department of Water Resources scientist installing station instruments.

NPS photo

Approach and Objectives

Using a subset of existing weather stations in Sierra Nevada parks, the Sierra Nevada Network Inventory & Monitoring Program will monitor and report on:

  • Temperature – Determine the status and trends in monthly and annual averages of daily minimum and maximum air temperature at the local scale.
  • Precipitation – Determine the status and trends in monthly and annual accumulated precipitation, including extremes, at the local scale.
  • Drought – Determine the status, trends, and periodicity in monthly and annual drought at the regional scale.
  • Snowpack – Determine the status, trend, and periodicity in seasonal snow water equivalent at the local and watershed scale.
  • Streamflow – Determine the status, trends, and periodicity in daily, monthly, and annual streamflow at the local scale.

Publications and Other Information

Monitoring Briefs

Brief overviews of project and reports

Source: Data Store Saved Search 989. To search for additional information, visit the Data Store.

Monitoring Protocol

Source: Data Store Saved Search 1009. To search for additional information, visit the Data Store.

Monitoring Reports and Publications

Source: Data Store Saved Search 1003. To search for additional information, visit the Data Store.

Last updated: September 19, 2018