Sensitivity of Great Salt Lake, USA, to Climate Change41.0N 112.4W
The Great Salt Lake Basin is a closed basin, meaning that it does not drain to an ocean. The Great Salt Lake (above center) stands out as a collector and integrator of signals from climatic and anthropogenically-induced hydrologic change. These changes are recorded in ancient lake terraces, accumulated sediments, short-term lake level changes, and recent changes in lake water chemistry.
The Great Salt Lake Basin is a snow-dominated hydrologic system, and, as such, it is highly sensitive to climate change. Changes in the volume of the Great Salt Lake, which have been recorded since 1847, represent the integrated effects of all of the major components of the hydrologic cycle.
The steep topography in the region provides short distances from catchment areas to the regional base level. Transects within the basin can span a range of geologies, elevations, climates, ecosystems, and land uses.
There is a high degree of interannual variability in precipitation within the Great Salt Lake Basin. In addition, the precipitation distribution is not normal, with bimodal tendencies toward wet or dry periods.
The three major watersheds to the east of the Great Salt Lake (the Bear River, Weber River, and Utah Lake Watersheds) provide the vast majority of water, sediment, and contaminant flux to the Great Salt Lake.