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Kingtse C. Mo, Lindsey N. Long, and Jae-Kyung E. Schemm

Abstract

Atmosphere–land–ocean coupled model simulations are examined to diagnose the ability of models to simulate drought and persistent wet spells over the United States. A total of seven models are selected for this study. They are three versions of the NCEP Climate Forecast System (CFS) coupled general circulation model (CGCM) with a T382, T126, and T62 horizontal resolution; GFDL Climate Model version 2.0 (CM2.0); GFDL CM2.1; Max Planck Institute (MPI) ECHAM5; and third climate configuration of the Met Office Unified Model (HadCM3) simulations from the World Climate Research Programme (WCRP) Coupled Model Intercomparison Project phase 3 (CMIP3) experiments.

Over the United States, drought and persistent wet spells are more likely to occur over the western interior region, while extreme events are less likely to persist over the eastern United States and the West Coast. For meteorological drought, which is defined by precipitation (P) deficit, the east–west contrast is well simulated by the CFS T382 and the T126 models. The HadCM3 captures the pattern but not the magnitudes of the frequency of occurrence of persistent extreme events. For agricultural drought, which is defined by soil moisture (SM) deficit, the CFS T382, CFS T126, MPI ECHAM5, and HadCM3 models capture the east–west contrast.

The models that capture the west–east contrast also have a realistic P climatology and seasonal cycle. ENSO is the dominant mode that modulates P over the United States. A model needs to have the ENSO mode and capture the mean P responses to ENSO in order to simulate realistic drought. To simulate realistic agricultural drought, the model needs to capture the persistence of SM anomalies over the western region.

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Sergio M. Vicente-Serrano, Santiago Beguería, Jorge Lorenzo-Lacruz, Jesús Julio Camarero, Juan I. López-Moreno, Cesar Azorin-Molina, Jesús Revuelto, Enrique Morán-Tejeda, and Arturo Sanchez-Lorenzo

Abstract

In this study, the authors provide a global assessment of the performance of different drought indices for monitoring drought impacts on several hydrological, agricultural, and ecological response variables. For this purpose, they compare the performance of several drought indices [the standardized precipitation index (SPI); four versions of the Palmer drought severity index (PDSI); and the standardized precipitation evapotranspiration index (SPEI)] to predict changes in streamflow, soil moisture, forest growth, and crop yield. The authors found a superior capability of the SPEI and the SPI drought indices, which are calculated on different time scales than the Palmer indices to capture the drought impacts on the aforementioned hydrological, agricultural, and ecological variables. They detected small differences in the comparative performance of the SPI and the SPEI indices, but the SPEI was the drought index that best captured the responses of the assessed variables to drought in summer, the season in which more drought-related impacts are recorded and in which drought monitoring is critical. Hence, the SPEI shows improved capability to identify drought impacts as compared with the SPI. In conclusion, it seems reasonable to recommend the use of the SPEI if the responses of the variables of interest to drought are not known a priori.

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Charles W. Lafon and Steven M. Quiring

Abstract

Fire affects virtually all terrestrial ecosystems but occurs more commonly in some than in others. This paper investigates how climate, specifically the moisture regime, influences the flammability of different landscapes in the eastern United States. A previous study of spatial differences in fire regimes across the central Appalachian Mountains suggested that intra-annual precipitation variability influences fire occurrence more strongly than does total annual precipitation. The results presented here support that conclusion. The relationship of fire occurrence to moisture regime is also considered for the entire eastern United States. To do so, mean annual wildfire density and mean annual area burned were calculated for 34 national forests and parks representing the major vegetation and climatic conditions throughout the eastern forests. The relationship between fire activity and two climate variables was analyzed: mean annual moisture balance [precipitation P − potential evapotranspiration (PET)] and daily precipitation variability (coefficient of variability for daily precipitation). Fire activity is related to both climate variables but displays a stronger relationship with precipitation variability. The southeastern United States is particularly noteworthy for its high wildfire activity, which is associated with a warm, humid climate and a variable precipitation regime, which promote heavy fuel production and rapid drying of fuels.

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Christopher E. Doughty, Scott R. Loarie, and Christopher B. Field

Abstract

South America has undergone a large increase in albedo over the past decade as forests have been converted to crops and wetlands have been drained. Recent modeling literature and paleoclimate precipitation proxies have highlighted how changes in surface energy balance could affect the position of the intertropical convergence zone (ITCZ) in South America. Here, the authors investigate whether large continental increases in albedo in South America can likewise affect the southward migration of the ITCZ into South America using the NCAR Community Atmosphere Model, version 3.0 (CAM3.0) coupled with the Community Land Model, version 3.5 (CLM3.5) and a slab ocean model. Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) albedo data show that between 2001 and 2008 average albedo increased by 0.0025 albedo units across all South America and by 0.0032 albedo units between 0° and 24° latitude in South America and, because of this effect, the authors’ simulations estimate an average ~23 mm yr−1 decrease in rainfall in the southern migration of the ITCZ (SMI) and an average ~9 mm yr−1 decrease in the entire Amazon basin. Large increases in albedo in South America decrease the northward atmospheric energy transport at the equator during the months the region of increased albedo is south of the ITCZ (May–July), leading to an apparent delay in its arrival to the SMI region and reduced rainfall in this region. However, because changing albedo is often associated with changing surface roughness, the authors model this separately and find that decreased surface roughness will have an opposite, increasing effect on precipitation. Therefore, they expect increasing albedo in South America associated with the drainage of wetlands to decrease precipitation, especially in the SMI region; however, in the case of deforestation, some of the decrease in precipitation from increased albedo may be offset by a corresponding decrease in surface roughness.

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Arindam Samanta, Sangram Ganguly, Eric Vermote, Ramakrishna R. Nemani, and Ranga B. Myneni

Abstract

The prevalence of clouds and aerosols and their impact on satellite-measured greenness levels of forests in southern and central Amazonia are explored in this article using 10 years of NASA Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) greenness data: normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI) and enhanced vegetation index (EVI). During the wet season (October–March), cloud contamination of greenness data is pervasive; nearly the entire region lacks uncorrupted observations. Even in the dry season (July–September), nearly 60%–66% of greenness data are corrupted, mainly because of biomass burning aerosol contamination. Under these conditions, spectrally varying residual atmospheric effects in surface reflectance data introduce artifacts into greenness indices; NDVI is known to artificially decrease, whereas EVI, given its formulation and use of blue channel surface reflectance data, shows artificial enhancement, which manifests as large patches of enhanced greenness. These issues render remote sensing of Amazon forest greenness a challenging task.

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Mark R. Jury

Abstract

Ocean and atmosphere reanalysis fields are used to study environmental conditions and their relation to commercial fish catch in the central Benguela upwelling zone, using both targeted and objective techniques. Composite maps and sections indicate a 10%–20% weakening of southeasterly winds, a 0.5°C warming of sea temperatures over the shelf, and changes in currents and subsurface upwelling associated with higher fish catch. During periods of high fish catch, recirculating gyres form that may aid the retention of eggs and larvae. Offshore winds contribute to poleward Ekman transport in a 50-m-deep layer within 100 km of the coast.

In addition to composite analysis, the natural variability is studied by principal component analysis of wind stress, sea level, temperature, salinity, currents, and vertical motion in the period 1970–2007. Comparison of interannual time scores and fisheries data indicate that anomalous poleward winds and warmer temperatures in the Lüderitz plume, driven by an atmospheric trough in the South Atlantic, are associated with higher catch rates.

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Min Chen and Qianlai Zhuang

Abstract

The authors use a spatially explicit parameterization method and the Terrestrial Ecosystem Model (TEM) to quantify the carbon dynamics of forest ecosystems in the conterminous United States. Six key parameters that govern the rates of carbon and nitrogen dynamics in TEM are selected for calibration. Spatially explicit data for carbon and nitrogen pools and fluxes are used to calibrate the six key parameters to more adequately account for the spatial heterogeneity of ecosystems in estimating regional carbon dynamics. The authors find that a spatially explicit parameterization results in vastly different carbon exchange rates relative to a parameterization conducted for representative ecosystem sites. The new parameterization method estimates that the net ecosystem production (NEP), the annual gross primary production (GPP), and the net primary production (NPP) of the regional forest ecosystems are 61% (0.02 Pg C; 1 Pg = 1015 g) higher and 2% (0.11 Pg C) and 19% (0.45 Pg C) lower, respectively, than the values obtained using the traditional parameterization method for the period 1948–2000. The estimated vegetation carbon and soil organic carbon pool sizes are 51% (18.73 Pg C) lower and 29% (7.40 Pg C) higher. This study suggests that, to more adequately quantify regional carbon dynamics, spatial data for carbon and nitrogen pools and fluxes should be developed and used with the spatially explicit parameterization method.

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C. Kendra Gotangco Castillo and Kevin Robert Gurney

Abstract

Deforestation perturbs both biophysical and carbon feedbacks on climate. However, biophysical feedbacks operate at temporally immediate and spatially focused scales and thus may be sensitive to the rate of deforestation rather than just to total forest-cover loss. Explored here is a method for simulating annual tropical deforestation in the fully coupled Community Climate System Model, version 3.0 (CCSM3) with the Dynamic Global Vegetation Model (DGVM) for testing biosphere climate sensitivity to “preservation pathways.” Two deforestation curves were simulated—a 10% deforestation curve with a 10% preservation target (DFC10-PT10) versus a 1% deforestation curve with a 10% preservation target (DFC1-PT10). During active deforestation, albedo, net radiation, latent heat flux, and climate variables were compared for time dependence and sensitivity to tropical tree cover across the tropical band and the Amazon basin, central African, and Southeast Asian regions. The results demonstrated the feasibility of modeling incremental deforestation and detecting both transient and long-term impacts, although a warm/dry bias in CCSM3–DGVM and the absence of carbon feedbacks preclude definitive conclusions on the magnitude of sensitivities. The deforestation rates produced characteristic trends in biophysical variables with DFC10-PT10 resulting in rapid increase/decrease during the initial 10–30 years before leveling off, whereas DFC1-PT10 exhibits gradual changes. The rate had little effect on biophysical and climate sensitivities when averaged over tropical land but produced significant differences at a regional level. Over the long term, the rates produced dissimilar vegetation distributions, despite having the same preservation target in both cases. Overall, these results indicate that the question of rates is one worth further analysis.

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L-M. Rebelo, G. B. Senay, and M. P. McCartney

Abstract

Located on the Bahr el Jebel in South Sudan, the Sudd is one of the largest floodplain wetlands in the world. Seasonal inundation drives the hydrologic, geomorphological, and ecological processes, and the annual flood pulse is essential to the functioning of the Sudd. Despite the importance of the flood pulse, various hydrological interventions are planned upstream of the Sudd to increase economic benefits and food security. These will not be without consequences, in particular for wetlands where the biological productivity, biodiversity, and human livelihoods are dependent on the flood pulse and both the costs and benefits need to be carefully evaluated. Many African countries still lack regional baseline information on the temporal extent, distribution, and characteristics of wetlands, making it hard to assess the consequences of development interventions. Because of political instability in Sudan and the inaccessible nature of the Sudd, recent measurements of flooding and seasonal dynamics are inadequate. Analyses of multitemporal and multisensor remote sensing datasets are presented in this paper, in order to investigate and characterize flood pulsing within the Sudd wetland over a 12-month period. Wetland area has been mapped along with dominant components of open water and flooded vegetation at five time periods over a single year. The total area of flooding (both rain and river fed) over the 12 months was 41 334 km2, with 9176 km2 of this constituting the permanent wetland. Mean annual total evaporation is shown to be higher and with narrower distribution of values from areas of open water (1718 mm) than from flooded vegetation (1641 mm). Although the exact figures require validation against ground-based measurements, the results highlight the relative differences in inundation patterns and evaporation across the Sudd.

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Christine Wiedinmyer, Michael Barlage, Mukul Tewari, and Fei Chen

Abstract

Physical characteristics of forests and other ecosystems control land–atmosphere exchanges of water and energy and partly dictate local and regional meteorology. Insect infestation and resulting forest dieback can alter these characteristics and, further, modify land–atmosphere exchanges. In the past decade, insect infestation has led to large-scale forest mortality in western North America. This study uses a high-resolution mesoscale meteorological model coupled with a detailed land surface model to investigate the sensitivity of near-surface variables to insect-related forest mortality. The inclusion of this land surface disturbance in the model increased in simulated skin temperature by as much as 2.1 K. The modeled 2-m temperature increased an average of 1 K relative to the default simulations. A latent to sensible heat flux shift with a magnitude of 10%–15% of the available energy in the forested ecosystem was predicted after the inclusion of insect infestation and forest dieback. Although results were consistent across multiple model configurations, the characteristics of forests affected by insect infestations must be better constrained to more accurately predict their impacts. Despite the limited duration of the simulations (one week), these initial results suggest the importance of including large-scale forest mortality due to insect infestation in meteorological models and highlight the need for better observations of the characteristics and exchanges of these disturbed landscapes.

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