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MODIS-Derived Boundary Conditions for a Mesoscale Climate Model: Application to Irrigated Agriculture in the Euphrates Basin

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  • 1 Department of Geology and Geophysics, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut
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Abstract

In arid and semiarid parts of the world, evaporation from irrigated fields may significantly influence humidity, near-surface winds, and precipitation. Using Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) Terra imagery from summer and autumn 2000 the authors attempt to improve the realism of a regional climate model (the fifth-generation Pennsylvania State University–NCAR Mesoscale Model) with respect to irrigated agriculture. MODIS data were used to estimate spatially distributed vegetation fraction and to identify areas of irrigated land use. Additionally, a novel surface flux routine designed to simulate traditional flood irrigation was implemented. Together these modifications significantly improved model predictions of water flux and the surface energy balance when judged against independent weather station data and known crop requirements. Model estimates of watershed-level water consumption were more than doubled relative to simulations that did not incorporate MODIS data, and there were small but systematic differences in predicted temperature and humidity near the surface. The modified version of the mesoscale model also predicts the existence of heat-driven circulations around large irrigated features, and these circulations are similar in structure and magnitude to those predicted by linear theory. Based on these results, it was found that accurate representation of irrigated agriculture is a prerequisite to any study of the impact of land-use change on climate or on water resources.

Corresponding author address: Benjamin F. Zaitchik, Geology and Geophysics Department, Yale University, P.O. Box 208109, New Haven, CT 06520-8109. Email: benjamin.zaitchik@yale.edu

Abstract

In arid and semiarid parts of the world, evaporation from irrigated fields may significantly influence humidity, near-surface winds, and precipitation. Using Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) Terra imagery from summer and autumn 2000 the authors attempt to improve the realism of a regional climate model (the fifth-generation Pennsylvania State University–NCAR Mesoscale Model) with respect to irrigated agriculture. MODIS data were used to estimate spatially distributed vegetation fraction and to identify areas of irrigated land use. Additionally, a novel surface flux routine designed to simulate traditional flood irrigation was implemented. Together these modifications significantly improved model predictions of water flux and the surface energy balance when judged against independent weather station data and known crop requirements. Model estimates of watershed-level water consumption were more than doubled relative to simulations that did not incorporate MODIS data, and there were small but systematic differences in predicted temperature and humidity near the surface. The modified version of the mesoscale model also predicts the existence of heat-driven circulations around large irrigated features, and these circulations are similar in structure and magnitude to those predicted by linear theory. Based on these results, it was found that accurate representation of irrigated agriculture is a prerequisite to any study of the impact of land-use change on climate or on water resources.

Corresponding author address: Benjamin F. Zaitchik, Geology and Geophysics Department, Yale University, P.O. Box 208109, New Haven, CT 06520-8109. Email: benjamin.zaitchik@yale.edu

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