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Patricia M. Lawston, Joseph A. Santanello Jr., Brian Hanson, and Kristi Arsensault

Abstract

Irrigation has the potential to modify local weather and regional climate through a repartitioning of water among the surface, soil, and atmosphere with the potential to drastically change the terrestrial energy budget in agricultural areas. This study uses local observations, satellite remote sensing, and numerical modeling to 1) explore whether irrigation has historically impacted summer maximum temperatures in the Columbia Plateau, 2) characterize the current extent of irrigation impacts to soil moisture (SM) and land surface temperature (LST), and 3) better understand the downstream extent of irrigation’s influence on near-surface temperature, humidity, and boundary layer development. Analysis of historical daily maximum temperature (TMAX) observations showed that the three Global Historical Climate Network (GHCN) sites downwind of Columbia Basin Project (CBP) irrigation experienced statistically significant cooling of the mean summer TMAX by 0.8°–1.6°C in the post-CBP (1968–98) as compared to pre-CBP expansion (1908–38) period, opposite the background climate signal. Remote sensing observations of soil moisture and land surface temperatures in more recent years show wetter soil (~18%–25%) and cooler land surface temperatures over the irrigated areas. Simulations using NASA’s Land Information System (LIS) coupled to the Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) Model support the historical analysis, confirming that under the most common summer wind flow regime, irrigation cooling can extend as far downwind as the locations of these stations. Taken together, these results suggest that irrigation expansion may have contributed to a reduction in summertime temperatures and heat extremes within and downwind of the CBP area. This supports a regional impact of irrigation across the study area.

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Xuebin Yang

Abstract

Woody plant cover, the area of the vertical projection of woody plants (trees, shrubs, and bushes), plays an important role in the structure and function of savanna ecosystems and is needed by the savanna modeling community. Recent problems facing savanna ecosystems such as woody plant encroachment and subsequent habitat fragmentation further underscore the relevance of regional-scale and even larger-scale woody plant cover mapping. The mixture of woody plants and herbaceous vegetation in savanna landscapes lends woody plant cover mapping to fractional representation. This study endeavors to develop a simple and reliable approach for fractional woody plant cover mapping in savanna ecosystems. It was tested in the savanna of central Texas, which features a wide woody plant density gradation. A multiple linear regression model was calibrated between orthophoto-based fractional woody plant cover and metrics derived from time series MODIS products of surface reflectance (MOD09A1) and fraction of photosynthetically active radiation (MOD15A2H). By applying this model, woody plant cover was extrapolated to Texas savanna at MODIS scale (500 m). Validation suggests a mean absolute error of 0.098 and an R-squared value of 0.60. This study demonstrates a potential approach for woody plant cover mapping in other savanna ecosystems of the world. It also highlights the utility of time series MODIS products in savanna woody plant cover estimation.

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Peiyun Zhu, Susan J. Cheng, Zachary Butterfield, Gretchen Keppel-Aleks, and Allison L. Steiner

Abstract

Clouds can modify terrestrial productivity by reducing total surface radiation and increasing diffuse radiation, which may be more evenly distributed through plant canopies and increase ecosystem carbon uptake (the “diffuse fertilization effect”). Previous work at ecosystem-level observational towers demonstrated that diffuse photosynthetically active radiation (PAR; 400–700 nm) increases with cloud optical thickness (COT) until a COT of approximately 10, defined here as the “low-COT regime.” To identify whether the low-COT regime also influences carbon uptake on broader spatial and longer temporal time scales, we use global, monthly data to investigate the influence of COT on carbon uptake in three land-cover types: shrublands, forests, and croplands. While there are limitations in global gross primary production (GPP) products, global COT data derived from Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) reveal that during the growing season tropical and subtropical regions more frequently experience a monthly low-COT regime (>20% of the time) than other regions of the globe. Contrary to ecosystem-level studies, comparisons of monthly COT with monthly satellite-derived solar-induced chlorophyll fluorescence and modeled GPP indicate that, although carbon uptake generally increases with COT under the low-COT regime, the correlations between COT and carbon uptake are insignificant (p > 0.05) in shrublands, forests, and croplands at regional scales. When scaled globally, vegetated regions under the low-COT regime account for only 4.9% of global mean annual GPP, suggesting that clouds and their diffuse fertilization effect become less significant drivers of terrestrial carbon uptake at broader spatial and temporal scales.

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Amanda Markert, Robert Griffin, Kevin Knupp, Andrew Molthan, and Tim Coleman

Abstract

North Alabama is among the most tornado-prone regions in the United States and is composed of more spatially variable terrain and land cover than the frequently studied North American Great Plains region. Because of the high tornado frequency observed across north Alabama, there is a need to understand how land surface roughness heterogeneity influences tornadogenesis, particularly for weak-intensity tornadoes. This study investigates whether horizontal gradients in land surface roughness exist surrounding locations of tornadogenesis for weak (EF0–EF1) tornadoes. The existence of the horizontal gradients could lead to the generation of positive values of the vertical components of the 3D vorticity vector near the surface that may aid in the tornadogenesis process. In this study, surface roughness was estimated using parameterizations from the Noah land surface model with inputs from MODIS 500-m and Landsat 30-m data. Spatial variations in the parameterized roughness lengths were assessed using GIS-based grid and quadrant pattern analyses to quantify observed variation of land surface features surrounding tornadogenesis locations across spatial scales. This analysis determined that statistically significant horizontal gradients in surface roughness exist surrounding tornadogenesis locations.

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Jessica V. Fayne, Aakash Ahamed, Justin Roberts-Pierel, Amanda C. Rumsey, and Dalia Kirschbaum

Abstract

Landslide event inventories are a vital resource for landslide susceptibility and forecasting applications. However, landslide inventories can vary in accuracy, availability, and timeliness as a result of varying detection methods, reporting, and data availability. This study presents an approach to use publicly available satellite data and open-source software to automate a landslide detection process called the Sudden Landslide Identification Product (SLIP). SLIP utilizes optical data from the Landsat-8 Operational Land Imager sensor, elevation data from the Shuttle Radar Topography Mission, and precipitation data from the Global Precipitation Measurement mission to create a reproducible and spatially customizable landslide identification product. The SLIP software applies change-detection algorithms to identify areas of new bare-earth exposures that may be landslide events. The study also presents a precipitation monitoring tool that runs alongside SLIP called the Detecting Real-Time Increased Precipitation (DRIP) model that helps to identify the timing of potential landslide events detected by SLIP. Using SLIP and DRIP together, landslide detection is improved by reducing problems related to accuracy, availability, and timeliness that are prevalent in the state of the art for landslide detection. A case study and validation exercise in Nepal were performed for images acquired between 2014 and 2015. Preliminary validation results suggest 56% model accuracy, with errors of commission often resulting from newly cleared agricultural areas. These results suggest that SLIP is an important first attempt in an automated framework that can be used for medium-resolution regional landslide detection, although it requires refinement before being fully realized as an operational tool.

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Christopher Potter

Abstract

Trends and transitions in the growing-season normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI) from the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) satellite sensor at 250-m resolution were analyzed for the period from 2000 to 2018 to understand recent patterns of vegetation change in ecosystems of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) in Alaska. Statistical analysis of changes in the NDVI time series was conducted using the breaks for additive seasonal and trend method (BFAST). This structural change analysis indicated that NDVI breakpoints and negative 18-yr trends in vegetation greenness over the years since 2000 could be explained in large part by the impacts of severe wildfires. At least one NDVI breakpoint was detected in around 20% of the MODIS pixels within both the Porcupine River and Coleen River basins of the study area. The vast majority of vegetation cover in the ANWR Brooks Range and coastal plain ecoregions was detected with no (positive or negative) growing-season NDVI trends since the year 2000. Results suggested that most negative NDVI anomalies in the 18-yr MODIS record have been associated with early spring thawing and elevated levels of surface moisture in low-elevation drainages of the northern ANWR ecoregions.

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Eugene S. Takle, Daniel A. Rajewski, and Samantha L. Purdy

Abstract

The Iowa Atmospheric Observatory was established to better understand the unique microclimate characteristics of a wind farm. The facility consists of a pair of 120-m towers identically instrumented to observe basic landscape–atmosphere interactions in a highly managed agricultural landscape. The towers, one within and one outside of a utility-scale low-density-array wind farm, are equipped to measure vertical profiles of temperature, wind, moisture, and pressure and can host specialized sensors for a wide range of environmental conditions. Tower measurements during the 2016 growing season demonstrate the ability to distinguish microclimate differences created by single or multiple turbines from natural conditions over homogeneous agricultural fields. Microclimate differences between the two towers are reported as contrasts in normalized wind speed, normalized turbulence intensity, potential temperature, and water vapor mixing ratio. Differences are analyzed according to conditions of no wind farm influence (i.e., no wake) versus wind farm influence (i.e., waked flow) with distance downwind from a single wind turbine or a large group of turbines. Differences are also determined for more specific atmospheric conditions according to thermal stratification. Results demonstrate agreement with most, but not all, currently available numerical flow-field simulations of large wind farm arrays and of individual turbines. In particular, the well-documented higher nighttime surface temperature in wind farms is examined in vertical profiles that confirm this effect to be a “suppression of cooling” rather than a warming process. A summary is provided of how the wind farm boundary layer differs from the natural boundary layer derived from concurrent measurements over the summer of 2016.

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G. Strandberg and E. Kjellström

Abstract

Changes in vegetation are known to have an impact on climate via biogeophysical effects such as changes in albedo and heat fluxes. Here, the effects of maximum afforestation and deforestation are studied over Europe. This is done by comparing three regional climate model simulations—one with present-day vegetation, one with maximum afforestation, and one with maximum deforestation. In general, afforestation leads to more evapotranspiration (ET), which leads to decreased near-surface temperature, whereas deforestation leads to less ET, which leads to increased temperature. There are exceptions, mainly in regions with little water available for ET. In such regions, changes in albedo are relatively more important for temperature. The simulated biogeophysical effect on seasonal mean temperature varies between 0.5° and 3°C across Europe. The effect on minimum and maximum temperature is larger than that on mean temperature. Increased (decreased) mean temperature is associated with an even larger increase (decrease) in maximum summer (minimum winter) temperature. The effect on precipitation is found to be small. Two additional simulations in which vegetation is changed in only one-half of the domain were also performed. These simulations show that the climatic effects from changed vegetation in Europe are local. The results imply that vegetation changes have had, and will have, a significant impact on local climate in Europe; the climatic response is comparable to climate change under RCP2.6. Therefore, effects from vegetation change should be taken into account when simulating past, present, and future climate for this region. The results also imply that vegetation changes could be used to mitigate local climate change.

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Dr. Elisabeth Vollmer and Prof. Oliver Mußhoff

Abstract

In this article, the effect of different weather parameters on the mean height and the variability of the protein content in winter wheat is investigated. The analysis is based on the proteins of 148 800 wheat deliveries in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania during 2004–15. From April to July, the forecast model was estimated with the following weather parameters: temperature sum, daily temperature range, precipitation, and sunshine duration. A Just and Pope function was estimated as a random intercept model. In addition to the weather parameters, a dummy variable is integrated into the forecast model to record differences in quality between A and B wheat varieties. The results show that 76.5% of the annual variability of the mean protein content can be explained on the basis of these weather parameters. In contrast, weather variables can only explain a small part of the variance in protein content per se.

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Rick Lader, John E. Walsh, Uma S. Bhatt, and Peter A. Bieniek

Abstract

Climate warming is expected to disproportionately affect crop yields in the southern United States due to excessive heat stress, while presenting new farming opportunities through a longer growing season farther north. Few studies have investigated the impact of this warming on agro-climate indices that link meteorological data with important field dates in northern regions. This study employs regional dynamical downscaling using the Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) Model to assess changes in growing season length (GSL), spring planting dates, and occurrences of plant heat stress (PHS) for five regions in Alaska. Differences between future representative concentration pathway 8.5 (RCP8.5; 2011–40, 2041–70, 2071–2100) and historical (1981–2010) periods are obtained using boundary forcing from the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory Climate Model, version 3, and the NCAR Community Climate System Model, version 4. The model output is bias corrected using ERA-Interim. Median GSL shows increases of 48–87 days by 2071–2100, with the largest changes in northern Alaska. Similarly, by 2071–2100, planting dates advance 2–4 weeks, and PHS days increase from near 0 to 5–10 instances per summer in the hottest areas. The largest GSL changes occur in the mid- (2041–70) and late century (2071–2100), when a warming signal emerges from the historical interannual variability. These periods coincide with the greatest divergence of the RCPs, suggesting that near-term decision-making may affect substantial future changes. Early-century (2011–40) projections show median GSL increases of 8–27 days, which is close to the historical standard deviation of GSL. Thus, internal variability will remain an important source of uncertainty into the midcentury, despite a trend for longer growing seasons.

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