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Storm Precipitation in the United States. Part II: Soil Erosion Characteristics

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  • a Atmospheric Environment Section, Illinois State Water Survey, Champaign, Illinois
  • | b Midwestern Regional Climate Center, Illinois State Water Survey, Champaign, Illinois
  • | c Atmospheric Environment Section, Illinois State Water Survey, Champaign, Illinois
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Abstract

Soil erosion is a major global challenge. An increased understanding of the mechanisms driving soil erosion, especially the storms that produce it, is vital to reducing the impact on agriculture and the environment. The objective of this work was to study the spatial distribution and time trends of the soil erosion characteristics of storms, including the maximum 30-min precipitation intensity (I30), storm kinetic energy of the falling precipitation (KE), and the storm erosivity index (EI) using a long-term 15-min precipitation database. This is the first time that such an extensive climatology of soil erosion characteristics of storms has been produced. The highest mean I30, KE, and EI values occurred in all seasons in the southeastern United States, while the lowest occurred predominantly in the interior west. The lowest mean I30, KE, and EI values typically occurred in winter, and the highest occurred in summer. The exception to this was along the West Coast where winter storms exhibited the largest mean KE and EI values. Linear regression was used to identify trends in mean storm erosion characteristics for nine U.S. zones over the 31-yr study period. The south-central United States showed increases for all three storm characteristics for all four seasons. On the other hand, higher elevations along the West Coast showed strong decreases in all three storm characteristics across all seasons. The primary agricultural region in the central United States showed significant increases in fall and winter mean EI when there is less vegetative cover. These results underscore the need to update the storm climatology that is related to soil erosion on a regular basis to reflect changes over time.

Corresponding author address: James R. Angel, Illinois State Water Survey, 2204 Griffith Drive, Champaign, IL 61820. jimangel@uiuc.edu

Abstract

Soil erosion is a major global challenge. An increased understanding of the mechanisms driving soil erosion, especially the storms that produce it, is vital to reducing the impact on agriculture and the environment. The objective of this work was to study the spatial distribution and time trends of the soil erosion characteristics of storms, including the maximum 30-min precipitation intensity (I30), storm kinetic energy of the falling precipitation (KE), and the storm erosivity index (EI) using a long-term 15-min precipitation database. This is the first time that such an extensive climatology of soil erosion characteristics of storms has been produced. The highest mean I30, KE, and EI values occurred in all seasons in the southeastern United States, while the lowest occurred predominantly in the interior west. The lowest mean I30, KE, and EI values typically occurred in winter, and the highest occurred in summer. The exception to this was along the West Coast where winter storms exhibited the largest mean KE and EI values. Linear regression was used to identify trends in mean storm erosion characteristics for nine U.S. zones over the 31-yr study period. The south-central United States showed increases for all three storm characteristics for all four seasons. On the other hand, higher elevations along the West Coast showed strong decreases in all three storm characteristics across all seasons. The primary agricultural region in the central United States showed significant increases in fall and winter mean EI when there is less vegetative cover. These results underscore the need to update the storm climatology that is related to soil erosion on a regular basis to reflect changes over time.

Corresponding author address: James R. Angel, Illinois State Water Survey, 2204 Griffith Drive, Champaign, IL 61820. jimangel@uiuc.edu

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