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Characterizing changes in streamflow and sediment supply in the Sacramento River Basin, California, using hydrological simulation program—FORTRAN (HSPF)

September 29, 2016

A daily watershed model of the Sacramento River Basin of northern California was developed to simulate streamflow and suspended sediment transport to the San Francisco Bay-Delta. To compensate for sparse data, a unique combination of model inputs was developed, including meteorological variables, potential evapotranspiration, and parameters defining hydraulic geometry. A slight decreasing trend of sediment loads and concentrations was statistically significant in the lowest 50% of flows, supporting the observed historical sediment decline. Historical changes in climate, including seasonality and decline of snowpack, contribute to changes in streamflow, and are a significant component describing the mechanisms responsible for the decline in sediment. Several wet and dry hypothetical climate change scenarios with temperature changes of 1.5 °C and 4.5 °C were applied to the base historical conditions to assess the model sensitivity of streamflow and sediment to changes in climate. Of the scenarios evaluated, sediment discharge for the Sacramento River Basin increased the most with increased storm magnitude and frequency and decreased the most with increases in air temperature, regardless of changes in precipitation. The model will be used to develop projections of potential hydrologic and sediment trends to the Bay-Delta in response to potential future climate scenarios, which will help assess the hydrological and ecological health of the Bay-Delta into the next century.

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