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Paul Xavier Flanagan, Rezaul Mahmood, Terry Sohl, Mark Svoboda, Brian Wardlow, Michael Hayes, and Eric Rappin

Abstract

Land-use land-cover change (LULCC) has become an important topic of research for the central United States because of the extensive conversion of the natural prairie into agricultural land, especially in the northern Great Plains. As a result, shifts in the natural climate (minimum/maximum temperature, precipitation, etc.) across the north-central United States have been observed, as noted within the Fourth National Climate Assessment (NCA4) report. Thus, it is necessary to understand how further LULCC will affect the near-surface atmosphere, the lower troposphere, and the planetary boundary layer (PBL) atmosphere over this region. The goal of this work was to investigate the utility of a new future land-use land-cover (LULC) dataset within the Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) modeling system. The present study utilizes a modeled future land-use dataset developed by the Forecasting Scenarios of Land-Use Change (FORE-SCE) model to investigate the influence of future (2050) land-use on a simulated PBL development within the WRF model. Three primary areas of LULCC were identified within the FORE-SCE future LULC dataset across Nebraska and South Dakota. Variations in LULC between the 2005 LULC control simulation and four FORE-SCE simulations affected near-surface temperature (0.5 – 1 °C) and specific humidity (0.3 – 0.5 g kg−1). The differences noted in the temperature and moisture fields affected the development of the simulated PBL, leading to variations in PBL height and convective available potential energy (CAPE). Overall, utilizing the FORE-SCE dataset within WRF produced notable differences compared to the control simulation over areas of LULCC represented in the FORE-SCE dataset.

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Maria Zubkova, Louis Giglio, Michael L. Humber, Joanne V. Hall, and Evan Ellicott

Abstract

It has been 10 years since the start of the Syrian uprisings. While relative stability is improving overall, a new disaster, wildfires, impacted an already food-insecure population by burning through key production areas, damaging crops, soil, and livestock and causing air quality to deteriorate. As observed with remotely sensed data, fire affected 4.8% of Syria in 2019, as compared with the average 0.2%, and most fires were observed within agricultural land in the northeast. Abnormal amounts of rainfall during the 2019 growing season and, consequently, high soil moisture explained about 62% of the drastic increase in the burned area extent. In contrast, in 2020, fires continued despite the average amount of rainfall. Extremely high temperature could partially explain a 10-fold increase in the extent of burned area in 2020 but only within forested regions in the northwest. We argue that the abrupt changes in Syria’s fire activity were driven by the complex interactions among conflict, migration, land use, and climate. On one side, the ongoing conflict leads to a drastic increase in the number of accidental and deliberate fires and reduced capacity for fire response. On the other side, years of insecurity, widespread displacement, and economic instability left no choice for locals other than exploiting fires to remove natural vegetation for expanding farming, logging, and charcoal trading. The loss of agricultural production and natural vegetation to fire can have serious implications for food security, soil property, biodiversity, and ecosystem services, which can further exacerbate the already unstable economy and make ongoing violence even more intense.

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Rajesh Bista, Qi Zhang, Rajan Parajuli, Rahul Karki, Bir Bahadur Khanal Chhetri, and Conghe Song

Abstract

Cropland abandonment has been a major land-use concern, threatening food security globally. Understanding the factors contributing to cropland abandonment advances land-use change science and provides essential information for policy making, both of which aim to improve agriculture land management. Despite many studies conducted on this topic, we still lack in-depth understanding on how feedbacks from the natural system influence cropland-use decisions at the household level in the human system. We fill this knowledge gap by conducting this study in the Middle Hills of Nepal, where community forestry is an integral part of the land-use system. We collected qualitative data through focus-group discussions, key-informant interviews, and review of local community-forest management documents, and we collected quantitative socioeconomic data through a household survey of 415 households. We geolocated 1264 cropland parcels owned by these households and recorded their use statuses. We found that there is an increasing trend of cropland abandonment that is due to multiple socioeconomic, ecological, and biophysical factors. A higher likelihood of cropland abandonment is linked to households that have more out-migrants, female heads, nonagricultural occupation of the household heads, and larger areas of agriculture landholding. The study also found that cropland parcels that are far from the households, close to the forest edge, and on steeper slopes are more likely to be abandoned. These findings provide key information for policy makers to devise effective measures on managing cropland and developing sustainable agriculture in rural Nepal.

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Mark R. Jury and América R. Gaviria Pabón

Abstract

Satellite and reanalysis products are used to study the atmospheric environment, aerosols, and trace gases in smoke plumes over South America in the period 2000–18. Climatic conditions and fire density maps provide context to link biomass burning across the southern Amazon region (5°–15°S, 50°–70°W) to thick near-surface plumes of trace gases and fine aerosols. Intraseasonal weather patterns that underpin greater fire emissions in the dry season (July–October) are exacerbated by high pressure over a cool eastern Pacific Ocean, for example in September 2007. Smoke-plume dispersion simulated with HYSPLIT reveals a slowing of westward transport between sources in eastern Brazil and the Andes Mountains. During cases of thick smoke plumes over southern Amazon, an upper ridge and sinking motions confine trace gases and fine aerosols below 4 km. Long-term warming, which tends to coincide with the zone of biomass burning, is +0.03°C yr−1 in the air and +0.1°C yr−1 at the land surface. Our study suggests that weather conditions promoting fire emissions also tend to limit dispersion.

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M. C. A. Torbenson, D. W. Stahle, I. M. Howard, D. J. Burnette, D. Griffin, J. Villanueva-Díaz, and B. I. Cook

Abstract

Season-to-season persistence of soil moisture drought varies across North America. Such interseasonal autocorrelation can have modest skill in forecasting future conditions several months in advance. Because robust instrumental observations of precipitation span less than 100 years, the temporal stability of the relationship between seasonal moisture anomalies is uncertain. The North American Seasonal Precipitation Atlas (NASPA) is a gridded network of separately reconstructed cool-season (December–April) and warm-season (May–July) precipitation series and offers new insights on the intra-annual changes in drought for up to 2000 years. Here, the NASPA precipitation reconstructions are rescaled to represent the long-term soil moisture balance during the cool season and 3-month-long atmospheric moisture during the warm season. These rescaled seasonal reconstructions are then used to quantify the frequency, magnitude, and spatial extent of cool-season drought that was relieved or reversed during the following summer months. The adjusted seasonal reconstructions reproduce the general patterns of large-scale drought amelioration and termination in the instrumental record during the twentieth century and are used to estimate relief and reversals for the most skillfully reconstructed past 500 years. Subcontinental-to-continental-scale reversals of cool-season drought in the following warm season have been rare, but the reconstructions display periods prior to the instrumental data of increased reversal probabilities for the mid-Atlantic region and the U.S. Southwest. Drought relief at the continental scale may arise in part from macroscale ocean–atmosphere processes, whereas the smaller-scale regional reversals may reflect land surface feedbacks and stochastic variability.

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Michael Peterson and Geoffrey Stano

Abstract

Lightning megaflashes extending over >100-km distances have been observed by the Geostationary Lightning Mappers (GLMs) on NOAA’s R-series Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellites (GOES). The hazards posed by megaflashes are unclear, however, because of limitations in the GLM data. We address these by reprocessing GOES-16 GLM measurements from 1 January 2018 to 15 January 2020 and integrating them with Earth Networks Global Lightning Network (ENGLN) observations. ENGLN verified 194 880 GLM megaflashes as natural lightning. Of these, 127 479 flashes occurred following the October 2018 GLM software update that standardized GLM timing. Reprocessed GLM/ENGLN lightning maps from these postupdate cases provide a comprehensive view of how individual megaflashes evolve. This megaflash dataset is used to generate statistics that describe their hazards. The average megaflash produces 5–7 cloud-to-ground (CG) strokes that are spread across 40%–50% of the flash extent. As flash extent increases beyond 100 km, megaflashes become concentrated in key hot-spot regions in North and South America while the number of CG and intracloud events per flash and the overall peak current increase. CGs in the larger megaflashes occur over 80% of the flash extent measured by GLM, and the majority contain regions where the megaflash is the only lightning activity in the preceding hour. These statistics demonstrate that there is no safe location below an electrified cloud that is producing megaflashes, and current lightning safety guidance is not always sufficient to mitigate megaflash hazards.

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Gerald V. Frost, Uma S. Bhatt, Matthew J. Macander, Amy S. Hendricks, and M. Torre Jorgenson

Abstract

Alaska’s Yukon–Kuskokwim Delta (YKD) is among the Arctic’s warmest, most biologically productive regions, but regional decline of the normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI) has been a striking feature of spaceborne Advanced High Resolution Radiometer (AVHRR) observations since 1982. This contrast with “greening” prevalent elsewhere in the low Arctic raises questions concerning climatic and biophysical drivers of tundra productivity along maritime–continental gradients. We compared NDVI time series from AVHRR, the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS), and Landsat for 2000–19 and identified trend drivers with reference to sea ice and climate datasets, ecosystem and disturbance mapping, field measurements of vegetation, and knowledge exchange with YKD elders. All time series showed increasing maximum NDVI; however, whereas MODIS and Landsat trends were very similar, AVHRR-observed trends were weaker and had dissimilar spatial patterns. The AVHRR and MODIS records for time-integrated NDVI were dramatically different; AVHRR indicated weak declines, whereas MODIS indicated strong increases throughout the YKD. Disagreement largely arose from observations during shoulder seasons, when there is partial snow cover and very high cloud frequency. Nonetheless, both records shared strong correlations with spring sea ice extent and summer warmth. Multiple lines of evidence indicate that, despite frequent disturbances and high interannual variability in spring sea ice and summer warmth, tundra productivity is increasing on the YKD. Although climatic drivers of tundra productivity were similar to more continental parts of the Arctic, our intercomparison highlights sources of uncertainty in maritime areas like the YKD that currently, or soon will, challenge historical concepts of “what is Arctic.”

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Paolina Bongioannini Cerlini, Lorenzo Silvestri, Silvia Meniconi, and Bruno Brunone

Abstract

This paper concerns the simulation of the water table elevation in shallow unconfined aquifers where infiltration is assumed as the main mechanism of recharge. The main aim is to provide a reliable tool for groundwater management that satisfies water supply managers. Such a tool is a candidate as a physically based alternative to the use of empirical methods or general circulation models. It is based on the use of two widely available sets of data: the water table elevation measurements and soil moisture time series. In fact, the former are usually provided by government agencies on public websites whereas the latter are included in the atmospheric global datasets (reanalysis). It is notable that data from reanalysis are accessible to any citizen and organization around the world on an open-access basis (e.g., Copernicus). In the proposed method, the measured water table elevations are correlated quantitatively with the water fluxes toward the aquifer evaluated using the soil moisture data from ERA5 reanalysis (provided by ECMWF) within a Richards equation–based approach. The analysis is executed using data from the Umbria region (Italy) on both a daily and monthly scale. In fact, these are the time intervals of interest for a proper management of groundwater resources. The proposed relationships include both a logarithmic and linear term and point out the possible different regimes of the shallow aquifers with regard to the recharge due to infiltration. These different mechanisms reflect in the different role played by the water fluxes toward the aquifer in terms of water table elevation changes according to the considered time scale.

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Yalalt Nyamgerel, Sang-Bum Hong, Yeongcheol Han, Songyi Kim, Jeonghoon Lee, and Soon Do Hur

Abstract

Polar snow pits or ice cores preserve valuable information derived from the atmosphere on past climate and environment changes. A 1.57-m snow-pit record from the coastal site (Styx Glacier) in eastern Antarctica covering the period from January 2011 to January 2015 was discussed and compared with meteorological variables. The dominant contribution of the deposition of sea-salt aerosols due to the proximity of the site to the ocean and processes of sea ice formation was revealed in the ionic concentrations. Consistent seasonal peaks in δ 18O, δD, MSA, nssSO42, and NO3 indicate the strong enhancement of their source during warm periods, whereas the sea-salt ions (Na+, K+, Mg2+, Ca2+, Cl, and totSO42) exhibit a distinct distribution. Monthly mean δ 18O positively correlates with the air temperature record from an automatic weather station (AWS) located in the main wind direction. Despite the shortness of the record, we suspect that the slight depletion of the isotopic composition and lowering of the snow accumulation could be related to the cooler air temperature with the decrease of open sea area. Consistency with previous studies and the positive correlation of sea-salt ions in the snow pit indicate the relatively good preservation of snow layers with noticeable climate and environmental signals [e.g., changes in sea ice extent (SIE) or sea surface temperature]. We report a new snow-pit record, which would be comparative and supportive to understand similar signals preserved in deeper ice cores in this location.

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Yang Hong, Thomas Connor, Huan Luo, Xiaoxing Bian, Zhaogang Duan, Zhuo Tang, and Jindong Zhang

Abstract

There is increasing conflict between snow leopards and humans in many protected areas, the main driver of which is the overlap in spatial utilization between snow leopards and livestock. Understanding the spatial utilization and microhabitat selection of snow leopards in areas featuring different levels of livestock grazing is important to better understand and resolve this conflict, but such studies are rare. Here, we conducted line transect and plot surveys in low- and high-grazing-disturbance areas (LGDAs and HGDAs) in Wolong National Reserve, southwestern China. We compared snow leopard spatial utilization and microhabitat characteristics between LGDAs and HGDAs. Results showed that snow leopards had aggregated distribution in both LGDAs and HGDAs, but the distribution of snow leopards in HGDAs was more centralized than in LGDAs. Herb cover and height in LGDAs were greater than in HGDAs. We fit a resource selection function (RSF) that showed that snow leopards preferentially selected higher elevation, smaller basal diameter of shrubs, and lower height of herbs in LGDAs. In contrast, there were no significant microhabitat factors in our snow leopard RSF in HGDAs. Our results indicate that high-intensity grazing tends to reduce the habitat types available to and preferential selectivity of habitat by snow leopards. We recommend that livestock grazing should be controlled to restore the diversity of the alpine ecosystems in Wolong Nature Reserve. Our findings also highlight the need for evaluating the impact of livestock grazing on rare animals in alpine environments (e.g., snow leopard) in other areas facing similar issues.

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