Walker Basin Hydroclimate

Tree-ring science meets instrumental observation

University of Nevada
DendroLab, Department of Geography, College of Science
Mackay School of Earth Science and Engineering
This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 1230329, 2012-2016
Scotty Strachan
Department of Geography
University of Nevada, Reno
strachan@unr.edu
Dr. Constance Millar
Senior Research Scientist
Pacific Southwest Research Station
U.S. Forest Service
Dr. Franco Biondi
Professor, DendroLab Director
Department of Geography
University of Nevada, Reno
Dr. David Charlet
Professor of Biology
College of Southern Nevada

Climate Variability

The climate in the Walker Basin has had tremendous impact on past landscapes in terms of snow cover, river flow, lake levels, and vegetation coverage. In modern times, many people, livelihoods, and human activities are affected by conditions such as extended drought. Planning decisions are made by ranchers, farmers, local communities, and federal agencies in response to prevailing climate conditions. Understanding how climate and water supply varies in the Walker Basin and how it can affect the landscape geographically can assist operational long-term decision making.

Scientific data for both past and present climate in the Walker are not distributed evenly in terms of space, time, resolution, or elevation. This project seeks to improve the quality and quantity of past and present climate data in the Basin by:

  1. Producing climatically-sensitive tree-ring chronologies from opposite topographic aspects at both high and low elevations across the east-west gradient of the watershed
  2. Installing air temperature monitoring sensors associated with these tree sites to evaluate accuracy of existing data/models
  3. Establishing a permanent weather/climate monitoring station in the center of the watershed for use by both scientists and the general public
  4. Conducting repeatable surveys of vegetation populations associated with the tree-ring sites to help evaluate the effects of topographic conditions

Walker Basin, NV - CA

The Walker Basin is a closed watershed in the western Great Basin of North America, draining a portion of the northern Sierra to the east via the East and West forks of the Walker River. The Walker River terminates in Walker Lake, one of the last remnants of Pleistocene Lake Lahontan. Elevations range from 3770 m (12,370 ft) in the Sierra to 1200 m (3960 ft) at Walker Lake, with several intervening ranges of mountains and hills.

Many small towns and ranches call the Walker Basin home, including the California communities of Bridgeport, Coleville, Walker, and Topaz. Populations in Nevada include Topaz Lake, Smith, Wellington, Yerington, the native community Schurz, and Hawthorne. The Basin contains active cattle ranching, mining, and military installations.

Natural environments within the Walker Basin vary highly, ranging from alpine ecosystems in the high Sierra to semi-arid desert settings east of Walker Lake. The Sierra provide a distinct rain shadow effect, blocking significant amounts of precipitation from reaching the eastern side of the watershed.

There are currently two ways to retrieve the data from the Walker Basin site:

Nevada Research Data Center

Nevada Seismological Laboratory

Western Nevada College

United States Forest Service - PSW

College of Southern Nevada

Current Conditions, Pine Grove Hills

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