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Weak Simulated Extratropical Responses to Complete Tropical Deforestation

Kirsten L. FindellNOAA/Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory, Princeton University, Princeton, New Jersey

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Thomas R. KnutsonNOAA/Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory, Princeton University, Princeton, New Jersey

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P. C. D. MillyU.S. Geological Survey, NOAA/Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory, Princeton University, Princeton, New Jersey

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Abstract

The Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory atmosphere–land model version 2 (AM2/LM2) coupled to a 50-m-thick slab ocean model has been used to investigate remote responses to tropical deforestation. Magnitudes and significance of differences between a control run and a deforested run are assessed through comparisons of 50-yr time series, accounting for autocorrelation and field significance. Complete conversion of the broadleaf evergreen forests of South America, central Africa, and the islands of Oceania to grasslands leads to highly significant local responses. In addition, a broad but mild warming is seen throughout the tropical troposphere (<0.2°C between 700 and 150 mb), significant in northern spring and summer. However, the simulation results show very little statistically significant response beyond the Tropics. There are no significant differences in any hydroclimatic variables (e.g., precipitation, soil moisture, evaporation) in either the northern or the southern extratropics. Small but statistically significant local differences in some geopotential height and wind fields are present in the southeastern Pacific Ocean. Use of the same statistical tests on two 50-yr segments of the control run show that the small but significant extratropical differences between the deforested run and the control run are similar in magnitude and area to the differences between nonoverlapping segments of the control run. These simulations suggest that extratropical responses to complete tropical deforestation are unlikely to be distinguishable from natural climate variability.

Corresponding author address: Dr. Kirsten L. Findell, NOAA/Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory, Princeton University, P.O. Box 308, Princeton, NJ 08542. Email: kirsten.findell@noaa.gov

Abstract

The Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory atmosphere–land model version 2 (AM2/LM2) coupled to a 50-m-thick slab ocean model has been used to investigate remote responses to tropical deforestation. Magnitudes and significance of differences between a control run and a deforested run are assessed through comparisons of 50-yr time series, accounting for autocorrelation and field significance. Complete conversion of the broadleaf evergreen forests of South America, central Africa, and the islands of Oceania to grasslands leads to highly significant local responses. In addition, a broad but mild warming is seen throughout the tropical troposphere (<0.2°C between 700 and 150 mb), significant in northern spring and summer. However, the simulation results show very little statistically significant response beyond the Tropics. There are no significant differences in any hydroclimatic variables (e.g., precipitation, soil moisture, evaporation) in either the northern or the southern extratropics. Small but statistically significant local differences in some geopotential height and wind fields are present in the southeastern Pacific Ocean. Use of the same statistical tests on two 50-yr segments of the control run show that the small but significant extratropical differences between the deforested run and the control run are similar in magnitude and area to the differences between nonoverlapping segments of the control run. These simulations suggest that extratropical responses to complete tropical deforestation are unlikely to be distinguishable from natural climate variability.

Corresponding author address: Dr. Kirsten L. Findell, NOAA/Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory, Princeton University, P.O. Box 308, Princeton, NJ 08542. Email: kirsten.findell@noaa.gov

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