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Impact of Deforestation on Regional Precipitation over the Indochina Peninsula

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  • 1 Institute of Industrial Science, The University of Tokyo, Tokyo, Japan
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Abstract

It is now widely recognized that tropical deforestation can change the regional climate significantly. The increasing population and the spreading deforestation in the Indochina Peninsula, especially in Thailand, make it urgent to assess the effects of deforestation on the regional climate. Most of the previous numerical experiments generally have shown that decreases in precipitation occur as a result of deforestation. However, in most cases, these hydrometeorological changes have not been detected in observations. In this study, the nonparametric Mann–Kendall rank test and linear regression analysis were applied to analyze precipitation data obtained over a period of more than 40 yr, for each month, at each meteorological station in Thailand. Significant decreases in precipitation over Thailand were detected only in the time series of monthly precipitation in September. Amounts of precipitation recorded at many meteorological stations in September have decreased by approximately 100 mm month−1 (approximately 30% relative change) over the past three or four decades. Numerical experiments with a regional climate model based on the Regional Atmospheric Modeling System with a simple land surface scheme were carried out for the Indochina Peninsula. In these experiments, the type of vegetation in the northeastern part of Thailand was specified as either short vegetation (the current vegetation type) or forest (the former vegetation type). The experiments were carried out using the initial and boundary meteorological conditions of August and September in 1992–94. The initial and boundary conditions were interpolated from the data of the National Centers for Environmental Prediction–National Center for Atmospheric Research reanalysis. In these numerical experiments, a decrease in precipitation over the deforested area was obtained for September, but not for August. The magnitude of the mean decrease in precipitation over the whole deforested area in these experiments was 26 mm month−1 (7% relative change), and the local maximum decrease was 88 mm month−1 (29% relative change). Precipitation in the wet season over the Indochina Peninsula basically occurs under the influence of the Southeast Asian summer monsoon system. The strong summer monsoon westerlies bring abundant moisture to the Indochina Peninsula as a source of precipitation. The monsoon westerlies are the predominant external force influencing the regional climate. However, the strong westerlies over the Indochina Peninsula disappear in September, although that is typically the month of maximum precipitation. Accordingly, it is inferred that the effect of local deforestation appears significantly only in September because of the absence of this strong external force.

Corresponding author address: Shinjiro Kanae, Institute of Industrial Science, The University of Tokyo, 4-6-1 Komaba, Meguro-ku, Tokyo 153-8505, Japan.

Email: kanae@iis.u-Tokyo.ac.jp

Abstract

It is now widely recognized that tropical deforestation can change the regional climate significantly. The increasing population and the spreading deforestation in the Indochina Peninsula, especially in Thailand, make it urgent to assess the effects of deforestation on the regional climate. Most of the previous numerical experiments generally have shown that decreases in precipitation occur as a result of deforestation. However, in most cases, these hydrometeorological changes have not been detected in observations. In this study, the nonparametric Mann–Kendall rank test and linear regression analysis were applied to analyze precipitation data obtained over a period of more than 40 yr, for each month, at each meteorological station in Thailand. Significant decreases in precipitation over Thailand were detected only in the time series of monthly precipitation in September. Amounts of precipitation recorded at many meteorological stations in September have decreased by approximately 100 mm month−1 (approximately 30% relative change) over the past three or four decades. Numerical experiments with a regional climate model based on the Regional Atmospheric Modeling System with a simple land surface scheme were carried out for the Indochina Peninsula. In these experiments, the type of vegetation in the northeastern part of Thailand was specified as either short vegetation (the current vegetation type) or forest (the former vegetation type). The experiments were carried out using the initial and boundary meteorological conditions of August and September in 1992–94. The initial and boundary conditions were interpolated from the data of the National Centers for Environmental Prediction–National Center for Atmospheric Research reanalysis. In these numerical experiments, a decrease in precipitation over the deforested area was obtained for September, but not for August. The magnitude of the mean decrease in precipitation over the whole deforested area in these experiments was 26 mm month−1 (7% relative change), and the local maximum decrease was 88 mm month−1 (29% relative change). Precipitation in the wet season over the Indochina Peninsula basically occurs under the influence of the Southeast Asian summer monsoon system. The strong summer monsoon westerlies bring abundant moisture to the Indochina Peninsula as a source of precipitation. The monsoon westerlies are the predominant external force influencing the regional climate. However, the strong westerlies over the Indochina Peninsula disappear in September, although that is typically the month of maximum precipitation. Accordingly, it is inferred that the effect of local deforestation appears significantly only in September because of the absence of this strong external force.

Corresponding author address: Shinjiro Kanae, Institute of Industrial Science, The University of Tokyo, 4-6-1 Komaba, Meguro-ku, Tokyo 153-8505, Japan.

Email: kanae@iis.u-Tokyo.ac.jp

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