Irrigated Agriculture Significantly Modifies Seasonal Boundary Layer Atmosphere and Lower-Tropospheric Convective Environment

Emilee Lachenmeier aHigh Plains Regional Climate Center, University of Nebraska–Lincoln, Lincoln, Nebraska
bSchool of Natural Resources, University of Nebraska–Lincoln, Lincoln, Nebraska

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Rezaul Mahmood aHigh Plains Regional Climate Center, University of Nebraska–Lincoln, Lincoln, Nebraska
bSchool of Natural Resources, University of Nebraska–Lincoln, Lincoln, Nebraska

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Chris Phillips cDepartment of Atmospheric Science, University of Alabama in Huntsville, Huntsville, Alabama

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Udaysankar Nair cDepartment of Atmospheric Science, University of Alabama in Huntsville, Huntsville, Alabama

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Eric Rappin dKentucky Climate Center, Western Kentucky University, Bowling Green, Kentucky

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Roger A. Pielke Sr. eDepartment of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences, University of Colorado Boulder, Boulder, Colorado
fCooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences, University of Colorado Boulder, Boulder, Colorado

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William Brown gEarth Observation Laboratory, National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, Colorado

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Steve Oncley gEarth Observation Laboratory, National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, Colorado

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Joshua Wurman hUniversity of Illinois Urbana–Champaign, Urbana, Illinois

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Karen Kosiba hUniversity of Illinois Urbana–Champaign, Urbana, Illinois

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Aaron Kaulfus cDepartment of Atmospheric Science, University of Alabama in Huntsville, Huntsville, Alabama

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Joseph Santanello Jr. iNASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland

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Edward Kim iNASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland

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Patricia Lawston-Parker iNASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland
jEarth System Science Interdisciplinary Center, University of Maryland, College Park, College Park, Maryland

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Michael Hayes bSchool of Natural Resources, University of Nebraska–Lincoln, Lincoln, Nebraska

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Trenton E. Franz bSchool of Natural Resources, University of Nebraska–Lincoln, Lincoln, Nebraska

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Abstract

Modification of grasslands into irrigated and nonirrigated agriculture in the Great Plains resulted in significant impacts on weather and climate. However, there has been lack of observational data–based studies solely focused on impacts of irrigation on the PBL and convective conditions. The Great Plains Irrigation Experiment (GRAINEX), conducted during the 2018 growing season, collected data over irrigated and nonirrigated land uses over Nebraska to understand these impacts. Specifically, the objective was to determine whether the impacts of irrigation are sustained throughout the growing season. The data analyzed include latent and sensible heat flux, air temperature, dewpoint temperature, equivalent temperature (moist enthalpy), PBL height, lifting condensation level (LCL), level of free convection (LFC), and PBL mixing ratio. Results show increased partitioning of energy into latent heat relative to sensible heat over irrigated areas while average maximum air temperature was decreased and dewpoint temperature was increased from the early to peak growing season. Radiosonde data suggest reduced planetary boundary layer (PBL) heights at all launch sites from the early to peak growing season. However, reduction of PBL height was much greater over irrigated areas than over nonirrigated croplands. Relative to the early growing period, LCL and LFC heights were also lower during the peak growing period over irrigated areas. Results note, for the first time, that the impacts of irrigation on PBL evolution and convective environment can be sustained throughout the growing season and regardless of background atmospheric conditions. These are important findings and applicable to other irrigated areas in the world.

Significance Statement

To meet the ever-increasing demand for food, many regions of the world have adopted widespread irrigation. The High Plains Aquifer (HPA) region, located within the Great Plains of the United States, is one of the most extensively irrigated regions. In this study, for the first time, we have conducted a detailed irrigation-focused land surface and atmospheric data collection campaign to determine irrigation impacts on the atmosphere. This research demonstrates that irrigation significantly alters lower atmospheric characteristics and creates favorable cloud and convection development conditions during the growing season. The results clearly show first-order impacts of irrigation on regional weather and climate and hence warrant further attention so that we can minimize negative impacts and achieve sustainable irrigation.

© 2024 American Meteorological Society. This published article is licensed under the terms of the default AMS reuse license. For information regarding reuse of this content and general copyright information, consult the AMS Copyright Policy (www.ametsoc.org/PUBSReuseLicenses).

Corresponding author: Rezaul Mahmood, rmahmood2@unl.edu

Abstract

Modification of grasslands into irrigated and nonirrigated agriculture in the Great Plains resulted in significant impacts on weather and climate. However, there has been lack of observational data–based studies solely focused on impacts of irrigation on the PBL and convective conditions. The Great Plains Irrigation Experiment (GRAINEX), conducted during the 2018 growing season, collected data over irrigated and nonirrigated land uses over Nebraska to understand these impacts. Specifically, the objective was to determine whether the impacts of irrigation are sustained throughout the growing season. The data analyzed include latent and sensible heat flux, air temperature, dewpoint temperature, equivalent temperature (moist enthalpy), PBL height, lifting condensation level (LCL), level of free convection (LFC), and PBL mixing ratio. Results show increased partitioning of energy into latent heat relative to sensible heat over irrigated areas while average maximum air temperature was decreased and dewpoint temperature was increased from the early to peak growing season. Radiosonde data suggest reduced planetary boundary layer (PBL) heights at all launch sites from the early to peak growing season. However, reduction of PBL height was much greater over irrigated areas than over nonirrigated croplands. Relative to the early growing period, LCL and LFC heights were also lower during the peak growing period over irrigated areas. Results note, for the first time, that the impacts of irrigation on PBL evolution and convective environment can be sustained throughout the growing season and regardless of background atmospheric conditions. These are important findings and applicable to other irrigated areas in the world.

Significance Statement

To meet the ever-increasing demand for food, many regions of the world have adopted widespread irrigation. The High Plains Aquifer (HPA) region, located within the Great Plains of the United States, is one of the most extensively irrigated regions. In this study, for the first time, we have conducted a detailed irrigation-focused land surface and atmospheric data collection campaign to determine irrigation impacts on the atmosphere. This research demonstrates that irrigation significantly alters lower atmospheric characteristics and creates favorable cloud and convection development conditions during the growing season. The results clearly show first-order impacts of irrigation on regional weather and climate and hence warrant further attention so that we can minimize negative impacts and achieve sustainable irrigation.

© 2024 American Meteorological Society. This published article is licensed under the terms of the default AMS reuse license. For information regarding reuse of this content and general copyright information, consult the AMS Copyright Policy (www.ametsoc.org/PUBSReuseLicenses).

Corresponding author: Rezaul Mahmood, rmahmood2@unl.edu

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