UC Merced Scientists Explain Mechanisms Affecting Sierra Nevada Runoff Levels During Drought

Jason Alvarez, UC Merced Communications
January 13, 2018

Scientists at UC Merced’s Sierra Nevada Research Institute (SNRI), UC Irvine, UC Davis and the USDA Forest Service have enumerated the mechanisms that serve as master regulators of streamflow and drought intensity by studying California’s 2012-15 drought. Their findings are detailed in a new paper published in Scientific Reports.

Researchers used measurements from the Southern Sierra Critical Zone Observatory (CZO) in California’s Kings River Basin to pinpoint four distinct mechanisms responsible for regulating runoff levels during the recent drought. Runoff — water from precipitation, snowmelt and natural reservoirs that feeds into mountain streams and rivers — ultimately supplies much of the state’s water.


“Runoff in mountain rivers ultimately reflects the difference between precipitation, which occurs as both rain and snow, and water returned to the atmosphere through evapotranspiration, which is mainly water used by plants plus evaporation from soil,” said Roger Bales, SNRI director and lead author of the new study.

Read the full article Sierra Sun Times.