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The Biophysical Impacts of Deforestation on Precipitation: Results from the CMIP6 Model Intercomparison

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  • 1 aSchool of Atmospheric Sciences, Nanjing University, Nanjing, China
  • | 2 bCollege of Oceanic and Atmospheric Sciences, Ocean University of China
  • | 3 cJoint International Research Laboratory of Atmospheric and Earth System Sciences, Nanjing University, Nanjing, China
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Abstract

Deforestation can impact precipitation through biophysical processes and such effects are commonly examined by models. However, previous studies mostly conduct deforestation experiments with a single model and the simulated precipitation responses to deforestation diverge across studies. In this study, 11 Earth system models are used to robustly examine the biophysical impacts of deforestation on precipitation, precipitation extremes, and the seasonal pattern of the rainy season through a comparison of a control simulation and an idealized global deforestation simulation with clearings of 20 million km2 of forests. The multimodel mean suggests decreased precipitation, reduced frequency and intensity of heavy precipitation, and shortened duration of rainy seasons over deforested areas. The deforestation effects can even propagate to some regions that are remote from deforested areas (e.g., the tropical and subtropical oceans and the Arctic Ocean). Nevertheless, the 11 models do not fully agree on the precipitation changes almost everywhere. In general, the models exhibit higher consistency over the deforested areas and a few regions outside the deforested areas (e.g., the subtropical oceans) but lower consistency over other regions. Such intermodel spread mostly results from divergent responses of evapotranspiration and atmospheric moisture convergence to deforestation across the models. One of the models that has multiple simulation members also reveals considerable spread of the precipitation responses to deforestation across the members due to internal model variability. This study highlights the necessity of robustly examining precipitation responses to deforestation based on multiple models and each model with multiple simulation members.

© 2022 American Meteorological Society. For information regarding reuse of this content and general copyright information, consult the AMS Copyright Policy (www.ametsoc.org/PUBSReuseLicenses).

Corresponding author: Jun Ge, junge@nju.edu.cn

Abstract

Deforestation can impact precipitation through biophysical processes and such effects are commonly examined by models. However, previous studies mostly conduct deforestation experiments with a single model and the simulated precipitation responses to deforestation diverge across studies. In this study, 11 Earth system models are used to robustly examine the biophysical impacts of deforestation on precipitation, precipitation extremes, and the seasonal pattern of the rainy season through a comparison of a control simulation and an idealized global deforestation simulation with clearings of 20 million km2 of forests. The multimodel mean suggests decreased precipitation, reduced frequency and intensity of heavy precipitation, and shortened duration of rainy seasons over deforested areas. The deforestation effects can even propagate to some regions that are remote from deforested areas (e.g., the tropical and subtropical oceans and the Arctic Ocean). Nevertheless, the 11 models do not fully agree on the precipitation changes almost everywhere. In general, the models exhibit higher consistency over the deforested areas and a few regions outside the deforested areas (e.g., the subtropical oceans) but lower consistency over other regions. Such intermodel spread mostly results from divergent responses of evapotranspiration and atmospheric moisture convergence to deforestation across the models. One of the models that has multiple simulation members also reveals considerable spread of the precipitation responses to deforestation across the members due to internal model variability. This study highlights the necessity of robustly examining precipitation responses to deforestation based on multiple models and each model with multiple simulation members.

© 2022 American Meteorological Society. For information regarding reuse of this content and general copyright information, consult the AMS Copyright Policy (www.ametsoc.org/PUBSReuseLicenses).

Corresponding author: Jun Ge, junge@nju.edu.cn

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