An examination of the sensitivity of the Great Salt Lake to changes in inputs

TitleAn examination of the sensitivity of the Great Salt Lake to changes in inputs
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2012
AuthorsMohammed, IN, Tarboton, DG
JournalWater Resources Research
Paginationn/a - n/a
Date Published2012/11

The Great Salt Lake is a closed basin lake in which level and volume fluctuate due to
differences between inflows and outflows. The only outflow is evaporation, which depends
directly on lake area and salinity, both of which depend on lake volume. The lake’s
level, volume, and area adjust to balance, on average, precipitation and streamflow inflows
by evaporation. In this paper, we examine the sensitivity of lake volume changes to
precipitation, streamflow, and evaporation and the interactions among these processes and
lake area and salinity related to volume. A mass balance model is developed to generate
representative realizations of future lake level from climate and streamflow inputs simulated
using the k-nearest-neighbor method. Climate and salinity are used to estimate evaporation
from the lake using a Penman model adjusted for the salinity-dependent saturation vapor
pressure. Our results show that fluctuation in streamflow is the dominant factor in lake level
fluctuations, but fluctuations in lake area that modulate evaporation and precipitation
directly on the lake are also important. The results also quantify the sensitivity of lake level
to changes in streamflow and air temperature inputs. They predict that a 25% decrease
in streamflow would reduce lake level by about 66 cm (2.2 feet), while a þ4 C air
temperature increase would reduce lake level by about 34 cm (1.1 feet) on average. This
sensitivity is important in evaluating the impacts of climate change or streamflow change
due to increased consumptive water use on the level of the lake.

Short TitleWater Resour. Res.
Refereed DesignationRefereed
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