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Short-Term Precipitation and Temperature Trends along an Elevation Gradient in Northeastern Puerto Rico

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  • 1 USDA Forest Service International Institute of Tropical Forestry, Río Piedras, Puerto Rico
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Abstract

As is true of many tropical regions, northeastern Puerto Rico is an ecologically sensitive area with biological life that is highly elevation dependent on precipitation and temperature. Climate change has the potential to increase the risk of losing endemic species and habitats. Consequently, it is important to explore the pattern of trends in precipitation and temperature along an elevation gradient. Statistical derivatives of a frequently sampled dataset of precipitation and temperature at 20 sites along an elevation gradient of 1000 m in northeastern Puerto Rico were examined for trends from 2001 to 2013 with nonparametric methods accounting for annual periodic variations such as yearly weather cycles. Overall daily precipitation had an increasing trend of around 0.1 mm day−1 yr−1. The driest months of the annual dry, early, and late rainfall seasons showed a small increasing trend in the precipitation (around 0.1 mm day−1 yr−1). There was strong evidence that precipitation in the driest months of each rainfall season increased faster at higher elevations (0.02 mm day−1 more increase for 100-m elevation gain) and some evidence for the same pattern in precipitation in all months of the year but at half the rate. Temperature had a positive trend in the daily minimum (around 0.02°C yr−1) and a negative trend in the daily maximum whose size is likely an order of magnitude larger than the size of the daily minimum trend. Physical mechanisms behind the trends may be related to climate change; longer-term studies will need to be undertaken in order to assess the future climatic trajectory of tropical forests.

Corresponding author address: Ashley E. Van Beusekom, USDA Forest Service International Institute of Tropical Forestry, Jardín Botánico Sur, 1201 Calle Ceiba, Río Piedras, PR 00926. E-mail address: ashley.vanbeusekom@gmail.com

A comment/reply has been published regarding this article and can be found at http://journals.ametsoc.org/doi/abs/10.1175/EI-D-16-0018.1 and http://journals.ametsoc.org/doi/abs/10.1175/EI-D-16-0031.1

Abstract

As is true of many tropical regions, northeastern Puerto Rico is an ecologically sensitive area with biological life that is highly elevation dependent on precipitation and temperature. Climate change has the potential to increase the risk of losing endemic species and habitats. Consequently, it is important to explore the pattern of trends in precipitation and temperature along an elevation gradient. Statistical derivatives of a frequently sampled dataset of precipitation and temperature at 20 sites along an elevation gradient of 1000 m in northeastern Puerto Rico were examined for trends from 2001 to 2013 with nonparametric methods accounting for annual periodic variations such as yearly weather cycles. Overall daily precipitation had an increasing trend of around 0.1 mm day−1 yr−1. The driest months of the annual dry, early, and late rainfall seasons showed a small increasing trend in the precipitation (around 0.1 mm day−1 yr−1). There was strong evidence that precipitation in the driest months of each rainfall season increased faster at higher elevations (0.02 mm day−1 more increase for 100-m elevation gain) and some evidence for the same pattern in precipitation in all months of the year but at half the rate. Temperature had a positive trend in the daily minimum (around 0.02°C yr−1) and a negative trend in the daily maximum whose size is likely an order of magnitude larger than the size of the daily minimum trend. Physical mechanisms behind the trends may be related to climate change; longer-term studies will need to be undertaken in order to assess the future climatic trajectory of tropical forests.

Corresponding author address: Ashley E. Van Beusekom, USDA Forest Service International Institute of Tropical Forestry, Jardín Botánico Sur, 1201 Calle Ceiba, Río Piedras, PR 00926. E-mail address: ashley.vanbeusekom@gmail.com

A comment/reply has been published regarding this article and can be found at http://journals.ametsoc.org/doi/abs/10.1175/EI-D-16-0018.1 and http://journals.ametsoc.org/doi/abs/10.1175/EI-D-16-0031.1

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