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Placing the 2012-2015 California-Nevada drought into a paleoclimatic context: Insights from Walker Lake, California-Nevada, USA
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Assessing regional hydrologic responses to past climate changes can offer a guide for how water resources might respond to ongoing and future climate change. Here we employed a coupled water balance and lake evaporation model to examine Walker Lake behaviors during the Medieval Climate Anomaly (MCA), a time of documented hydroclimatic extremes. Together, a C-14-based shoreline elevation chronology, submerged subfossil tree stumps in the West Walker River, and regional paleoproxy evidence indicate a similar to 50 year pluvial episode that bridged two 140+ year droughts. We developed estimates of MCA climates to examine the transient lake behavior and evaluate watershed responses to climate change. Our findings suggest the importance of decadal climate persistence to elicit large lake-level fluctuations. We also simulated the current 2012-2015 California-Nevada drought and found that the current drought exceeds MCA droughts in mean severity but not duration.