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Mesoscale Simulations of the Land Surface Effects of Historical Logging in a Moist Continental Climate Regime

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  • 1 Department of Geography and Center for Climatic Research, University of Delaware, Newark, Delaware
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Abstract

An enhanced knowledge of the feedbacks from land surface changes on regional climates is of great importance in the attribution of climate change. To explore the effects of deforestation on a midlatitude climate regime, two sets of two five-member ensembles of 28-day simulations were conducted using the fifth-generation Pennsylvania State University–National Center for Atmospheric Research Mesoscale Model (MM5) coupled to the “Noah” land surface model. The four ensembles represented conditions in summer (August) and winter (February) across the northern mid-Atlantic United States before and after extensive late-nineteenth-century logging of hardwood forests in central and northern Pennsylvania. Prelogging ensembles prescribed a vegetative cover of an evergreen needleleaf forest; postlogging ensembles prescribed sparse vegetation and bare soil to simulate clear-cut deforestation. The results of the MM5 experiments showed a decided seasonality in the response of the land surface–atmosphere system to deforestation, with much stronger effects arising in summer. In August, deforestation caused a repartitioning of the surface energy budget, beginning with a decrease in the latent heat flux of more than 60 W m−2 across the land cover–forcing area, representing almost one-half of the latent heat flux under prelogging land cover. Concomitant with this decrease in evapotranspiration, mean 2-m air temperatures warmed by at least 1.5°C. Increases in sensible heat flux led to a 150-m mean increase in the height of the atmospheric boundary layer over the deforested area. Low-level atmospheric mixing ratios and total precipitation decreased under clear-cut conditions. Mean soil moisture increased in all model levels to 150 cm because of a decrease in vegetative uptake of water, except at the 5-cm level at which such decreases were effectively balanced by greater soil evaporation and less precipitation. A strong diurnal variation in the response to deforestation of ground and lower-atmosphere temperatures and heat fluxes was also identified for the summer season. The February simulations showed the effects of deforestation during low-insolation months to be small and variable. The strong response of the summer land surface–atmosphere system to deforestation shown here suggests that land cover changes can appreciably affect regional climates. Thus, the role of human-induced and naturally occurring land cover variability should not be ignored in the attribution of climate change.

* Current affiliation: Walker Institute for Climate System Research and Department of Meteorology, University of Reading, Reading, United Kingdom

Corresponding author address: N. P. Klingaman, Department of Meteorology, University of Reading, Earley Gate, P.O. Box 243, Reading, Berkshire, RG6 6BB, United Kingdom. Email: n.p.klingaman@rdg.ac.uk

Abstract

An enhanced knowledge of the feedbacks from land surface changes on regional climates is of great importance in the attribution of climate change. To explore the effects of deforestation on a midlatitude climate regime, two sets of two five-member ensembles of 28-day simulations were conducted using the fifth-generation Pennsylvania State University–National Center for Atmospheric Research Mesoscale Model (MM5) coupled to the “Noah” land surface model. The four ensembles represented conditions in summer (August) and winter (February) across the northern mid-Atlantic United States before and after extensive late-nineteenth-century logging of hardwood forests in central and northern Pennsylvania. Prelogging ensembles prescribed a vegetative cover of an evergreen needleleaf forest; postlogging ensembles prescribed sparse vegetation and bare soil to simulate clear-cut deforestation. The results of the MM5 experiments showed a decided seasonality in the response of the land surface–atmosphere system to deforestation, with much stronger effects arising in summer. In August, deforestation caused a repartitioning of the surface energy budget, beginning with a decrease in the latent heat flux of more than 60 W m−2 across the land cover–forcing area, representing almost one-half of the latent heat flux under prelogging land cover. Concomitant with this decrease in evapotranspiration, mean 2-m air temperatures warmed by at least 1.5°C. Increases in sensible heat flux led to a 150-m mean increase in the height of the atmospheric boundary layer over the deforested area. Low-level atmospheric mixing ratios and total precipitation decreased under clear-cut conditions. Mean soil moisture increased in all model levels to 150 cm because of a decrease in vegetative uptake of water, except at the 5-cm level at which such decreases were effectively balanced by greater soil evaporation and less precipitation. A strong diurnal variation in the response to deforestation of ground and lower-atmosphere temperatures and heat fluxes was also identified for the summer season. The February simulations showed the effects of deforestation during low-insolation months to be small and variable. The strong response of the summer land surface–atmosphere system to deforestation shown here suggests that land cover changes can appreciably affect regional climates. Thus, the role of human-induced and naturally occurring land cover variability should not be ignored in the attribution of climate change.

* Current affiliation: Walker Institute for Climate System Research and Department of Meteorology, University of Reading, Reading, United Kingdom

Corresponding author address: N. P. Klingaman, Department of Meteorology, University of Reading, Earley Gate, P.O. Box 243, Reading, Berkshire, RG6 6BB, United Kingdom. Email: n.p.klingaman@rdg.ac.uk

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