National Park Service

Sierra Nevada Network (SIEN)

Climate Monitoring

Weather station at Devils Postpile NM
Weather station at Devils Postpile NM.

Climate Monitoring Briefs

Climate Monitoring Reports

Climate Inventory Report

Climate Monitoring Protocol

SIEN Weather Station Map

Useful Links to Climate and Weather Information

For more information contact: Andi Heard

Climate Monitoring brief

Climate monitoring in the Sierra Nevada Network parks resource brief
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Importance & Issues

Climate is a major driver of Sierra Nevada ecosystems. Current patterns of vegetation, water dynamics, fire regimes, and animal distributions are determined largely by cumulative effects of past and present climates. The Sierra Nevada Network selected weather and climate and snowpack as vital signs because 1) changes in regional climate patterns lead to ecological changes and 2) climate data will be used to explain patterns observed in other indicators.

 

Marble Fork of the Kaweah River watershed in Sequoia National Park. The Sierra Nevada snowpack stores water like a reservoir, gradually melting and supplying lower elevations with water through the growing season.
Marble Fork of the Kaweah River watershed in Sequoia National Park. The Sierra Nevada snowpack stores water like a reservoir, gradually melting and supplying lower elevations with water through the growing season.

Anthropogenic climate change is the stressor that is predicted to have the most pronounced effects on Sierra Nevada ecosystems. For example, research shows that trends in snowpack, river flow, and winter air temperature are strongly linked to human-induced climate change in the western U.S. Human-influenced temperature patterns are associated with changes in plant and animal phenological traits, such as timing of flower blooming and nesting of birds.

Warming temperatures are likely to shift some habitats to higher elevation or possibly result in new associations of species, as not all species at a particular elevation will respond the same way to climatic changes. Some organisms with limited mobility or specific habitat needs may not be able to move or survive such habitat shifts and could be locally extirpated. Some habitats may shrink dramatically or disappear entirely, leading to irreversible loss of some species.

Recent decades in the Sierra Nevada were among the warmest of the last millennium. Atmospheric warming is 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.

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Monitoring Objectives & Approach

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.

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Management Applications

Yosemite Valley campground during January 1997 flood event, a result of rain on snowpack at higher elevations that caused rapid melt and flooding of many Sierra Nevada rivers and streams.
Yosemite Valley campground during January 1997 flood event, a result of rain on snowpack at higher elevations that caused rapid melt and flooding of many Sierra Nevada rivers and streams. Photo by Steve Thompson.

Data from this protocol will:

  • Inform fire and air resources management programs, as climate and weather play a major role in influencing fire frequency, severity, and size, as well as daily air quality.
  • Inform park operations. Real-time data provide general weather conditions that are of interest to park employees and visitors, and can help inform park managers about events like severe storms and floods.
  • Enable managers to better track climate change in Sierra Nevada parks and its effects on park resources.
  • Assist with interpretation of changes in other resources that are being monitored by the parks and the Inventory & Monitoring program.

 

Project Cooperators

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Map of SIEN Weather Stations

SIEN weather station map

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Useful Links to Weather and Climate Information

Topic Links
Weather Forecasts and Advisories http://www.nws.noaa.gov/
Climate Data http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/cdo-web/search
Drought Information
Snow
Precipitation
Streamflow Information for California
Park Specific Information
Extended Regional Forecasts
NPS Climate Inventory
Climate Library

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Last Updated: December 30, 2016 Contact Webmaster