Great Salt Lake Information System

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Lake Volume

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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.

Fluctuations in the volume of the Great Salt Lake represent the integrated effects of precipitation, evapotranspiration, snow pack sublimation, and subsurface transport over the watershed. The level of the Great Salt Lake has been recorded since 1847, providing a long-term record that is indicative of changes in these processes over time.

Fluctuation in water-surface altitude of Gilbert Bay, 1847 to present Source: USGS

Because these processes are complex, there is often not a strong correspondence between precipitation and streamflow, reflective of the difficulty in quantifying mountain precipitation inputs. This is demonstrated in the following figure.

Time-series graph

It has also been observed that major changes in lake volume lag behind changes in precipitation and streamflow, indicating the influence of subsurface transport and possibly other processes in the lake volume fluctuation.

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