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Regional Differences in the Influence of Irrigation on Climate

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  • 1 Food Security and Environment Program, Woods Institute for the Environment, and the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies, Stanford University, Stanford, California
  • | 2 Center for Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences, Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, India
  • | 3 Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Livermore, California
  • | 4 Department of Geology and Geologic Engineering, Colorado School of Mines, Golden, Colorado
  • | 5 Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Livermore, California
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Abstract

A global climate model experiment is performed to evaluate the effect of irrigation on temperatures in several major irrigated regions of the world. The Community Atmosphere Model, version 3.3, was modified to represent irrigation for the fraction of each grid cell equipped for irrigation according to datasets from the Food and Agriculture Organization. Results indicate substantial regional differences in the magnitude of irrigation-induced cooling, which are attributed to three primary factors: differences in extent of the irrigated area, differences in the simulated soil moisture for the control simulation (without irrigation), and the nature of cloud response to irrigation. The last factor appeared especially important for the dry season in India, although further analysis with other models and observations are needed to verify this feedback. Comparison with observed temperatures revealed substantially lower biases in several regions for the simulation with irrigation than for the control, suggesting that the lack of irrigation may be an important component of temperature bias in this model or that irrigation compensates for other biases. The results of this study should help to translate the results from past regional efforts, which have largely focused on the United States, to regions in the developing world that in many cases continue to experience significant expansion of irrigated land.

Corresponding author address: David Lobell, Program on Food Security and the Environment, Stanford University, Y2E2 Bldg, MC4205, 473 Via Ortega, Stanford, CA 94305. Email: dlobell@stanford.edu

Abstract

A global climate model experiment is performed to evaluate the effect of irrigation on temperatures in several major irrigated regions of the world. The Community Atmosphere Model, version 3.3, was modified to represent irrigation for the fraction of each grid cell equipped for irrigation according to datasets from the Food and Agriculture Organization. Results indicate substantial regional differences in the magnitude of irrigation-induced cooling, which are attributed to three primary factors: differences in extent of the irrigated area, differences in the simulated soil moisture for the control simulation (without irrigation), and the nature of cloud response to irrigation. The last factor appeared especially important for the dry season in India, although further analysis with other models and observations are needed to verify this feedback. Comparison with observed temperatures revealed substantially lower biases in several regions for the simulation with irrigation than for the control, suggesting that the lack of irrigation may be an important component of temperature bias in this model or that irrigation compensates for other biases. The results of this study should help to translate the results from past regional efforts, which have largely focused on the United States, to regions in the developing world that in many cases continue to experience significant expansion of irrigated land.

Corresponding author address: David Lobell, Program on Food Security and the Environment, Stanford University, Y2E2 Bldg, MC4205, 473 Via Ortega, Stanford, CA 94305. Email: dlobell@stanford.edu

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