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Keith J. Harding and Peter K. Snyder

Abstract

Since World War II, the expansion of irrigation throughout the Great Plains has resulted in a significant decline in the water table of the Ogallala Aquifer, threatening its long-term sustainability. The addition of near-surface water for irrigation has previously been shown to impact the surface energy and water budgets by modifying the partitioning of latent and sensible heating. A strong increase in latent heating drives near-surface cooling and an increase in humidity, which has opposing impacts on convective precipitation. In this study, the Weather Research and Forecasting Model (WRF) was modified to simulate the effects of irrigation on precipitation. Using a satellite-derived fractional irrigation dataset, grid cells were divided into irrigated and nonirrigated segments and the near-surface soil layer within irrigated segments was held at saturation. Nine April–October periods (three drought, three normal, and three pluvial) were simulated over the Great Plains. Averaging over all simulations, May–September precipitation increased by 4.97 mm (0.91%), with localized increases of up to 20%. The largest precipitation increases occurred during pluvial years (6.14 mm; 0.98%) and the smallest increases occurred during drought years (2.85 mm; 0.63%). Precipitation increased by 7.86 mm (1.61%) over irrigated areas from the enhancement of elevated nocturnal convection. Significant precipitation increases occurred over irrigated areas during normal and pluvial years, with decreases during drought years. This suggests that a soil moisture threshold likely exists whereby irrigation suppresses convection over irrigated areas when soil moisture is extremely low and enhances convection when antecedent soil moisture is relatively high.

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Keith J. Harding and Peter K. Snyder

Abstract

The rapid expansion of irrigation in the Great Plains since World War II has resulted in significant water table declines, threatening the long-term sustainability of the Ogallala Aquifer. As discussed in Part I of this paper, the Weather Research and Forecasting Model (WRF) was modified to simulate the effects of irrigation at subgrid scales. Simulations of nine April–October periods (three drought, three normal, and three pluvial) over the Great Plains were completed to assess the full impact of irrigation on the water budget. Averaged over all simulated years, irrigation over the Great Plains contributes to May–September evapotranspiration increases of approximately 4% and precipitation increases of 1%, with localized increases of up to 20%. Results from these WRF simulations are used along with a backward trajectory analysis to identify where evapotranspiration from irrigated fields falls as precipitation (i.e., irrigation-induced precipitation) and how irrigation impacts precipitation recycling. On average, only 15.8% of evapotranspiration from irrigated fields falls as precipitation over the Great Plains, resulting in 5.11 mm of May–September irrigation-induced precipitation and contributing to 6.71 mm of recycled precipitation. Reductions in nonrecycled precipitation suggest that irrigation reduces precipitation of moisture advected into the region. The heaviest irrigation-induced precipitation is coincident with simulated and observed precipitation increases, suggesting that observed precipitation increases in north-central Nebraska are strongly related to evapotranspiration of irrigated water. Water losses due to evapotranspiration are much larger than irrigation-induced precipitation and recycled precipitation increases, confirming that irrigation results in net water loss over the Great Plains.

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Keith J. Harding and Peter K. Snyder

Abstract

This study demonstrates the relationship between the Pacific–North American (PNA) teleconnection pattern and the Great Plains low-level jet (GPLLJ). The negative phase of the PNA, which is associated with lower heights over the Great Plains and ridging in the southeastern United States, enhances the GPLLJ by increasing the pressure gradient within the GPLLJ on 6-hourly to monthly time scales. Strong GPLLJ events predominantly occur when the PNA is negative. Warm-season strong GPLLJ events with a very negative PNA (<−1) are associated with more persistent, longer wavelength planetary waves that increase the duration of GPLLJ events and enhance precipitation over the north central United States. When one considers the greatest 5-day north central U.S. precipitation events, a large majority occur when the PNA is negative, with most exhibiting a very negative PNA. Stronger moisture transport during heavy rainfall events with a very negative PNA decreases the precipitation of locally derived moisture compared to events with a very positive PNA. The PNA becomes negative 2–12 days before heavy rainfall events and is very negative within two weeks of 78% of heavy rainfall events in the north central United States, a finding that could be used to improve medium-range forecasts of heavy rainfall events.

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Keith J. Harding, Tracy E. Twine, and Yaqiong Lu

Abstract

The rapid expansion of irrigation since the 1950s has significantly depleted the Ogallala Aquifer. This study examines the warm-season climate impacts of irrigation over the Ogallala using high-resolution (6.33 km) simulations of a version of the Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) Model that has been coupled to the Community Land Model with dynamic crop growth (WRF-CLM4crop). To examine how dynamic crops influence the simulated impact of irrigation, the authors compare simulations with dynamic crops to simulations with a fixed annual cycle of crop leaf area index (static crops). For each crop scheme, simulations were completed with and without irrigation for 9 years that represent the range of observed precipitation. Reduced temperature and precipitation biases occur with dynamic versus static crops. Fundamental differences in the precipitation response to irrigation occur with dynamic crops, as enhanced surface roughness weakens low-level winds, enabling more water from irrigation to remain over the region. Greater simulated rainfall increases (12.42 mm) occur with dynamic crops compared to static crops (9.08 mm), with the greatest differences during drought years (+20.1 vs +5.9 mm). Water use for irrigation significantly impacts precipitation with dynamic crops (R 2 = 0.29), but no relationship exists with static crops. Dynamic crop growth has the largest effect on the simulated impact of irrigation on precipitation during drought years, with little impact during nondrought years, highlighting the need to simulate the dynamic response of crops to environmental variability within Earth system models to improve prediction of the agroecosystem response to variations in climate.

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Justin E. Bagley, Ankur R. Desai, Keith J. Harding, Peter K. Snyder, and Jonathan A. Foley

Abstract

Expansion of agricultural lands and inherent variability of climate can influence the water cycle in the Amazon basin, impacting numerous ecosystem services. However, these two influences do not work independently of each other. With two once-in-a-century-level droughts occurring in the Amazon in the past decade, it is vital to understand the feedbacks that contribute to altering the water cycle. The biogeophysical impacts of land cover change within the Amazon basin were examined under drought and pluvial conditions to investigate how land cover and drought jointly may have enhanced or diminished recent precipitation extremes by altering patterns and intensity. Using the Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) Model coupled to the Noah land surface model, a series of April–September simulations representing drought, normal, and pluvial years were completed to assess how land cover change impacts precipitation and how these impacts change under varied rainfall regimes. Evaporative sources of water vapor that precipitate across the region were developed with a quasi-isentropic back-trajectory algorithm to delineate the extent and variability that terrestrial evaporation contributes to regional precipitation. A decrease in dry season latent heat flux and other impacts of deforestation on surface conditions were increased by drought conditions. Coupled with increases in dry season moisture recycling over the Amazon basin by ~7% during drought years, land cover change is capable of reducing precipitation and increasing the amplitude of droughts in the region.

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