UC Merced to start climate change center in Sierra Nevada | SierraSun.com

UC Merced to start climate change center in Sierra Nevada

MERCED, Calif. (AP) ” Officials at the University of California, Merced have received a $4.6 million grant from the National Science Foundation to start an outdoor laboratory geared toward studying climate change in the Sierra Nevada range.

The lab will hire researchers to investigate the effects that rising temperatures will have on rain and snowfall in the Sierra Nevada, and how those changes will affect the local ecosystem and state’s water systems, officials said.

“We want to understand the processes that take place from the top of the vegetation all the way down through the ground water,” said engineer Roger Bales, a member of the UC Merced Sierra Nevada Research Institute. “The elevations we’re studying will have (the) possibility for the greatest change in the next decade.”

Over the next five years, researchers will focus on a 2-mile area near Shaver Lake called the Kings River Experimental Watershed, where the elevation ranges from 5,000 feet to 7,000 feet. Currently, snowfall typically stops and rainfall begins in that range, but that transition zone is likely to creep higher as global warming shrinks the Sierra snowpack, Bales said.

Bales will coordinate the new research team, which will include experts from other UC campuses, including Berkeley, Irvine, Davis and Santa Barbara, as well as scientists from the University of Nevada, Reno and the Pacific Southwest Research Station of the U.S. Forest Service.

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press.