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Influences of a Winter Wheat Belt on the Evolution of the Boundary Layer

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  • 1 Oklahoma Climatological Survey, Norman, Oklahoma
  • | 2 NOAA/National Severe Storms Laboratory, Norman, Oklahoma
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Abstract

Evidence exists that a large-scale alteration of land use by humans can cause changes in the climatology of the region. The largest-scale transformation is the substitution of native landscape by agricultural cropland. This modeling study examines the impact of a direct substitution of one type of grassland for another—in this case, the replacement of tallgrass prairie with winter wheat. The primary difference between these grasses is their growing season: native prairie grasses of the U.S. Great Plains are warm-season grasses whereas winter wheat is a cool-season grass.

Case study simulations were conducted for 27 March 2000 and 5 April 2000—days analyzed in previous observational studies. The simulations provided additional insight into the physical processes involved and changes that occurred throughout the depth of the planetary boundary layer. Results indicate the following: 1) with the proper adjustment of vegetation parameters, land-use type, fractional vegetation coverage, and soil moisture, the numerical simulations were able to capture the overall patterns measured near the surface across a growing wheat belt during benign springtime conditions in Oklahoma; 2) the impacts of the mesoscale belt of growing wheat included increased values of latent heat flux and decreased values of sensible heat flux over the wheat, increased values of atmospheric moisture near the surface above and downstream of the wheat, and a shallower planetary boundary layer (PBL) above and downstream of the wheat; 3) in the sheared environments that were examined, a shallower PBL that resulted from growing wheat (rather than natural vegetation) led to reduced entrainment of higher momentum air into the PBL and, thus, weaker winds within the PBL over and downwind from the growing wheat; 4) for the cases studied, gradients in sensible heat were insufficient to establish an unambiguous vegetation breeze or its corresponding mesoscale circulation; 5) the initialization of soil moisture within the root zone aided latent heat fluxes from growing vegetation; and 6) reasonable specification of land surface parameters was required for the correct simulation and prediction of surface heat fluxes and resulting boundary layer development.

Corresponding author address: Dr. Renee A. McPherson, Oklahoma Climatological Survey, University of Oklahoma, 100 East Boyd Street, Suite 1210, Norman, OK 73019-1012. Email: renee@ou.edu

Abstract

Evidence exists that a large-scale alteration of land use by humans can cause changes in the climatology of the region. The largest-scale transformation is the substitution of native landscape by agricultural cropland. This modeling study examines the impact of a direct substitution of one type of grassland for another—in this case, the replacement of tallgrass prairie with winter wheat. The primary difference between these grasses is their growing season: native prairie grasses of the U.S. Great Plains are warm-season grasses whereas winter wheat is a cool-season grass.

Case study simulations were conducted for 27 March 2000 and 5 April 2000—days analyzed in previous observational studies. The simulations provided additional insight into the physical processes involved and changes that occurred throughout the depth of the planetary boundary layer. Results indicate the following: 1) with the proper adjustment of vegetation parameters, land-use type, fractional vegetation coverage, and soil moisture, the numerical simulations were able to capture the overall patterns measured near the surface across a growing wheat belt during benign springtime conditions in Oklahoma; 2) the impacts of the mesoscale belt of growing wheat included increased values of latent heat flux and decreased values of sensible heat flux over the wheat, increased values of atmospheric moisture near the surface above and downstream of the wheat, and a shallower planetary boundary layer (PBL) above and downstream of the wheat; 3) in the sheared environments that were examined, a shallower PBL that resulted from growing wheat (rather than natural vegetation) led to reduced entrainment of higher momentum air into the PBL and, thus, weaker winds within the PBL over and downwind from the growing wheat; 4) for the cases studied, gradients in sensible heat were insufficient to establish an unambiguous vegetation breeze or its corresponding mesoscale circulation; 5) the initialization of soil moisture within the root zone aided latent heat fluxes from growing vegetation; and 6) reasonable specification of land surface parameters was required for the correct simulation and prediction of surface heat fluxes and resulting boundary layer development.

Corresponding author address: Dr. Renee A. McPherson, Oklahoma Climatological Survey, University of Oklahoma, 100 East Boyd Street, Suite 1210, Norman, OK 73019-1012. Email: renee@ou.edu

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