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Christine Wiedinmyer
Michael Barlage
Mukul Tewari
, and
Fei Chen


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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