Investigation of the Large-Scale Atmospheric Moisture Field over the Midwestern United States in Relation to Summer Precipitation. Part II: Recycling of Local Evapotranspiration and Association with Soil Moisture and Crop Yields

Abraham Zangvil Jacob Blaustein Institute for Desert Research, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Sede Boker, Israel

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Diane H. Portis Cooperative Institute for Mesoscale Meteorological Studies, University of Oklahoma, Norman, Oklahoma

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Peter J. Lamb Cooperative Institute for Mesoscale Meteorological Studies, University of Oklahoma, Norman, Oklahoma

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Abstract

The relative contributions of locally evapotranspired (i.e., recycled) moisture versus externally advected water vapor for the growing-season precipitation of the U.S. Corn Belt and surrounding areas (1.23 × 106 km2) are estimated in this paper. Four May–August seasons with highly contrasting precipitation and crop yields (1975, 1976, 1979, and 1988) are investigated. A simple recycling equation—developed from the traditional atmospheric moisture budget and involving regional evapotranspiration and atmospheric water vapor inflow—is applied on daily, monthly, and seasonal time scales. Several atmospheric moisture budget components {moisture flux divergence [MFD], storage change [or change in precipitable water (dPW)], and inflow [IF]} are evaluated for 24-h periods using standard finite difference and line integral methods applied to objectively analyzed U.S. and Canadian rawinsonde data (50-hPa vertical resolution, surface to 300 hPa) for 0000 and 1200 UTC. Daily area-averaged precipitation (P) totals are derived from approximately 600 evenly distributed (but ungridded) recording rain gauges. Evapotranspiration (E) is estimated as the residual of the moisture budget equation for 24-h periods; values compare favorably with the few existing observations.

Traditional budget results show the following: E is weakly related to P on monthly and seasonal time scales; there is surprising interannual constancy of seasonal E cycles and averages given the large variation in resulting crop yields; and monthly and seasonal variability of the export of the EP surplus is determined largely by the horizontal velocity divergence component of MFD. New recycling analyses suggest that the contribution of local E to P (i.e., PE/P) is relatively small and remarkably consistent (largely 0.19–0.24) for monthly and seasonal periods, despite large P and crop yield variations. However, the monthly/seasonal averaging process is found to completely mask a striking decrease of daily PE/P (from approximately 0.30 to 0.15) with increasing P from 0 to 8 mm day−1. Unique and detailed analyses of P-stratified daily moisture budget results provide key insights into apparent contradictions between daily and monthly/seasonal recycling and related results and concomitant interannual variability, especially for the very dry 1988 season. Interpretation is facilitated by the use of modeled daily global radiation values, measured (instantaneous) and modeled (monthly) soil moisture, United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) crop yield estimates, and satellite normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI) imagery. This paper shows that land–atmosphere interactions are intimately involved in pronounced seasonal climate anomalies for the world's richest agricultural region, but apparently with considerable complexity that includes plant behavior, solar radiation forcing, and challenging time-scale interrelations.

Additional affiliation: School of Meteorology, University of Oklahoma, Norman, Oklahoma

Corresponding author address: Dr. Abraham Zangvil, Meteorology Unit, Jacob Blaustein Institute for Desert Research, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Sede Boker, 84990, Israel. Email: zangvil@bgumail.bgu.ac.il

Abstract

The relative contributions of locally evapotranspired (i.e., recycled) moisture versus externally advected water vapor for the growing-season precipitation of the U.S. Corn Belt and surrounding areas (1.23 × 106 km2) are estimated in this paper. Four May–August seasons with highly contrasting precipitation and crop yields (1975, 1976, 1979, and 1988) are investigated. A simple recycling equation—developed from the traditional atmospheric moisture budget and involving regional evapotranspiration and atmospheric water vapor inflow—is applied on daily, monthly, and seasonal time scales. Several atmospheric moisture budget components {moisture flux divergence [MFD], storage change [or change in precipitable water (dPW)], and inflow [IF]} are evaluated for 24-h periods using standard finite difference and line integral methods applied to objectively analyzed U.S. and Canadian rawinsonde data (50-hPa vertical resolution, surface to 300 hPa) for 0000 and 1200 UTC. Daily area-averaged precipitation (P) totals are derived from approximately 600 evenly distributed (but ungridded) recording rain gauges. Evapotranspiration (E) is estimated as the residual of the moisture budget equation for 24-h periods; values compare favorably with the few existing observations.

Traditional budget results show the following: E is weakly related to P on monthly and seasonal time scales; there is surprising interannual constancy of seasonal E cycles and averages given the large variation in resulting crop yields; and monthly and seasonal variability of the export of the EP surplus is determined largely by the horizontal velocity divergence component of MFD. New recycling analyses suggest that the contribution of local E to P (i.e., PE/P) is relatively small and remarkably consistent (largely 0.19–0.24) for monthly and seasonal periods, despite large P and crop yield variations. However, the monthly/seasonal averaging process is found to completely mask a striking decrease of daily PE/P (from approximately 0.30 to 0.15) with increasing P from 0 to 8 mm day−1. Unique and detailed analyses of P-stratified daily moisture budget results provide key insights into apparent contradictions between daily and monthly/seasonal recycling and related results and concomitant interannual variability, especially for the very dry 1988 season. Interpretation is facilitated by the use of modeled daily global radiation values, measured (instantaneous) and modeled (monthly) soil moisture, United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) crop yield estimates, and satellite normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI) imagery. This paper shows that land–atmosphere interactions are intimately involved in pronounced seasonal climate anomalies for the world's richest agricultural region, but apparently with considerable complexity that includes plant behavior, solar radiation forcing, and challenging time-scale interrelations.

Additional affiliation: School of Meteorology, University of Oklahoma, Norman, Oklahoma

Corresponding author address: Dr. Abraham Zangvil, Meteorology Unit, Jacob Blaustein Institute for Desert Research, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Sede Boker, 84990, Israel. Email: zangvil@bgumail.bgu.ac.il

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