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Rezaul Mahmood
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Paul Flanagan and Rezaul Mahmood

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Extreme precipitation events are challenging to local and regional stakeholders across the United States. The Missouri River basin (MoRB), covering an area over 1.29 million km2, is prone to extreme precipitation events. These events are exacerbated by the complex terrain in the west and the numerous weather and climate features that impact the region on a seasonal and annual basis (low-level jets, mesoscale convective systems, extreme cold air intrusions, etc.). Without an in-depth analysis of extreme precipitation in the MoRB, the evolving nature of extreme precipitation is not known. This situation warrants an analysis of extreme precipitation, especially relating to subannual variations when extreme precipitation is more impactful. To this end, data from 131 U.S. Historical Climatology Network (USHCN) stations were used to determine the nature of extreme precipitation from 1950 to 2019. Annual 99th-percentile events and annual station maximum precipitation events occur more frequently in the eastern MoRB than in the western MoRB, in line with the annual precipitation climatology. Results show that 99th-percentile events and annual station maximum precipitation events are becoming more frequent across the MoRB. Through analysis of 3-month extreme precipitation trends, areas in the eastern and southern MoRB are shown to have an increase in event frequency and intensity. Frequency shifts in the 99th-percentile events, however, have occurred across the entire region. The increasing frequency of extreme events in the western MoRB represents a significant change for the hydroclimate of the region. Overall, the results from this work show that MORB extreme precipitation has increased in frequency and intensity during the 1950–2019 period.

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Thomas R. Loveland and Rezaul Mahmood

Land use and land cover change (LULCC) significantly influences the climate system. Hence, to prepare the nation for future climate change and variability, a sustained assessment of LULCC and its climatic impacts needs to be undertaken. To address this objective, not only do we need to determine contemporary trends in land use and land cover that affect, or are affected by, weather and climate but also identify sectors and regions that are most affected by weather and climate variability. Moreover, it is critical that we recognize land cover and regions that are most vulnerable to climate change and how end-use practices are adapting to climate change. This paper identifies a series of steps that need to be undertaken to address these key items. In addition, national-scale institutional capabilities are identified and discussed. Included in the discussions are challenges and opportunities for collaboration among these institutions for a sustained assessment.

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Rezaul Mahmood and Kenneth G. Hubbard

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Soil moisture (SM) plays an important role in land surface and atmosphere interactions. It modifies energy balance near the surface and the rate of water cycling between land and atmosphere. The lack of observed SM data prohibits understanding of SM variations at climate scales under varying land uses. However, with simulation models it is possible to develop a long-term SM dataset and study these issues.

In this paper a water balance model is used to provide a quantitative assessment of SM climatologies for three land uses, namely, irrigated corn, rain-fed corn, and grass, grown under three hydroclimatic regimes in Nebraska. These regimes are stops along an east–west decreasing precipitation gradient of the Great Plains. The simulated SM climatologies are provided for the root zone as a whole and for the five layers of the soil profile to a depth of 1.2 m. As expected, the soil water content in the root zone of irrigated corn was higher than rain-fed corn or grass. The lowest levels of soil water depletion were found under rain-fed corn cultivation due to its complete reliance on naturally available SM. The annual total evapotranspiration (ET) was 34% and 36% higher for irrigated corn than for rain-fed corn and grass, respectively. The study suggests that due to interannual variability the SM variability is higher for deeper depths, as compared to near-surface depths. Growing season SM depletion and prevailing soil water content at various depths of the soil profile varies with crops, soils, and prevailing hydroclimatic conditions.

The results show that land use affects the magnitude of SM variability at all time scales. At a daily temporal scale, SM variability is less under irrigated land use and sharply increases under rain-fed land uses. At the monthly scale, SM variability largely follows the trend of the daily time scale. Year-to-year SM variability is significant. Extremely dry or wet conditions enhance and reduce, respectively, the forcing of land use on SM variability at an annual time scale. Thus, large-scale interannual climate variations and land use jointly affect SM variability at this scale.

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Rezaul Mahmood, Joseph Santanello, and Xiaoyang Zhang
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Ronnie Leeper, Rezaul Mahmood, and Arturo I. Quintanar

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Karst hydrology provides a unique set of surface and subsurface hydrological components that affect soil moisture variability. Over karst topography, surface moisture moves rapidly below ground via sink holes, vertical shafts, and sinking streams, reducing surface runoff and moisture infiltration into the soil. In addition, subsurface cave blockage or rapid snowmelt over karst can lead to surface flooding. Moreover, regions dominated by karst may exhibit either drier or wetter soils when compared to nonkarst landscape. However, because of the lack of both observational soil moisture datasets to initialize simulations and regional land surface models (LSMs) that include explicit karst hydrological processes, the impact of karst on atmospheric processes is not fully understood. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to investigate the importance of karst hydrology on planetary boundary layer (PBL) atmosphere using the Weather Research and Forecasting Model (WRF). This research is a first attempt to identify the impacts of karst on PBL. To model the influence of karst hydrology on atmospheric processes, soil moisture was modified systematically over the Western Kentucky Pennyroyal Karst (WKYPK) region to produce an ensemble of dry and wet anomaly experiments. Simulations were conducted for both frontal- and nonfrontal-based convection. For the dry ensemble, cloud cover was both diminished downwind of karst because of reduced atmospheric moisture and enhanced slightly upwind as moist air moved into a region of increased convection compared to control simulations (CTRL). Moreover, sensible (latent) heat flux and PBL heights were increased (decreased) compared to CTRL. In addition, the wet ensemble experiments reduced PBL heights and sensible heat flux and increased cloud cover over karst compared to CTRL. Other changes were noted in equivalent potential temperature (θe) and vertical motions and development of new mesoscale circulation cells with alterations in soil moisture over WKYPK. Finally, the location of simulated rainfall patterns were altered by both dry and wet ensembles with the greatest sensitivity to simulated rainfall occurring during weakly forced or nonfrontal cases. Simulated rainfall for the dry ensemble was more similar to the North American Regional Reanalysis (NARR) than CTRL for the nonfrontal case. Furthermore, the initial state of the atmosphere and convective triggers were found to either enhance or diminish simulated atmospheric responses.

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Rezaul Mahmood, Megan Schargorodski, Stuart Foster, and Andrew Quilligan

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The Kentucky Mesonet is a research-grade weather and climate observing network with redundant sensors that monitors the near-surface atmosphere at 71 locations across Kentucky. The network measures temperature, precipitation, solar radiation, relative humidity, barometric pressure, and wind speed and direction every 5 min, with soil moisture and soil temperature measured every 30 min. In addition, it operates a camera at selected locations. All observations are transmitted via cellular modem every 5 min and become available to the general public through the World Wide Web within seconds after arrival at Kentucky Mesonet’s Network Operations Center. In between arriving at the IT division and dissemination to general public, the data also go through automated data quality assurance (QA) procedures. Within that time, the data can be viewed through various graphical/visualization formats, developed based on feedback from the user community. The Kentucky Mesonet produces twice-daily QA reports and its technicians respond to these reports, making site visits when necessary to address issues. Mesonet technicians make regular site visits to all stations during spring, summer, and fall seasons. The network maintains a detailed database of station metadata that includes instrument and site maintenance history. The Mesonet delivers the data to the National Weather Service to aid forecasting. It also works closely with a variety of local, state, and federal entities so that the network can meet diverse needs.

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Rezaul Mahmood, Roger A. Pielke Sr., and Clive A. McAlpine

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Both observational and modeling studies clearly demonstrate that land-use and land-cover change (LULCC) play an important biogeophysical and biogeochemical role in the climate system from the landscape to regional and even continental scales. Without comprehensively considering these impacts, an adequate response to the threats posed by human intervention into the climate system will not be adequate.

Public policy plays an important role in shaping local- to national-scale land-use practices. An array of national policies has been developed to influence the nature and spatial extent of LULCC. Observational evidence suggests that these policies, in addition to international trade treaties and protocols, have direct effects on LULCC and thus the climate system.

However, these policies, agreements, and protocols fail to adequately recognize these impacts. To make these more effective and thus to minimize climatic impacts, we propose several recommendations: 1) translating international treaties and protocols into national policies and actions to ensure positive climate outcomes; 2) updating international protocols to reflect advancement in climate–LULCC science; 3) continuing to invest in the measurements, databases, reporting, and verification activities associated with LULCC and LULCC-relevant climate monitoring; and 4) reshaping Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation+ (REDD+) to fully account for the multiscale biogeophysical and biogeochemical impacts of LULCC on the climate system.

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Heather Tollerud, Jesslyn Brown, Tom Loveland, Rezaul Mahmood, and Norman Bliss

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Land–atmosphere interactions play a critical role in the Earth system, and a better understanding of these interactions could improve weather and climate models. The interaction among drought, vegetation productivity, and land cover is of particular significance. In a semiarid environment, such as the U.S. Great Plains, droughts can have a large influence on the productivity of agriculture and grasslands, with serious environmental and economic impacts. Here, we used the vegetation drought response index (VegDRI) drought indicator to investigate the response of vegetation to weather and climate for land-cover types in the Great Plains in the United States from 1989 to 2012. We found that analysis that focused on land-cover types within ecoregion divisions provided substantially more and land-cover-based detail on the timing and intensity of drought than did summarizing across the entire Great Plains region. In the northern Great Plains, VegDRI measured more frequent drought impacts on vegetation in the western ecoregions than in the eastern ecoregions. Across the ecoregions of the Great Plains, drought impacts on vegetation were more commonly found in grassland than in cropland. For example, in the “Northwestern Great Plains” ecoregion (which encompasses areas of Montana, Wyoming, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Nebraska), grassland and nonirrigated cropland were observed in VegDRI to have historical fractional drought coverages in the growing season of 17% and 11%, respectively.

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Jimmy O. Adegoke, Roger A. Pielke Sr., J. Eastman, Rezaul Mahmood, and Kenneth G. Hubbard

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The impact of irrigation on the surface energy budget in the U.S. high plains is investigated. Four 15-day simulations were conducted: one using a 1997 satellite-derived estimate of farmland acreage under irrigation in Nebraska (control run), two using the Olson Global Ecosystem (OGE) vegetation dataset (OGE wet run and OGE dry run), and the fourth with the Kuchler vegetation dataset (natural vegetation run) as lower boundary conditions in the Colorado State University Regional Atmospheric Modeling System (RAMS). In the control and OGE wet simulations, the topsoil in the irrigated locations, up to a depth of 0.2 m, was saturated at 0000 UTC each day for the duration of the experiment (1–15 July 1997). In the other two runs, the soil was allowed to dry out, except when replenished naturally by rainfall. Identical observed atmospheric conditions were used along the lateral boundary in all four cases.

The area-averaged model-derived quantities for the grid centered over Nebraska indicate significant differences in the surface energy fluxes between the control (irrigated) and the “dry” simulations. For example, a 36% increase in the surface latent heat flux and a 2.6°C elevation in dewpoint temperature between the control run and the OGE dry run is shown. Surface sensible heat flux of the control run was 15% less and the near-ground temperature was 1.2°C less compared to the OGE dry run. The differences between the control run and the natural vegetation run were similar but amplified compared to the control run–OGE dry run comparisons.

Results of statistical analyses of long-term (1921–2000) surface temperature data from two sites representing locations of extensive irrigated and nonirrigated land uses appear to support model results presented herein of an irrigation-related cooling in surface temperature. Growing season monthly mean and monthly mean maximum temperature data for the irrigated site indicate a steady decreasing trend in contrast to an increasing trend at the nonirrigated site.

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