IMPACT OF LAND SURFACE VEGETATION CHANGE OVER THE LA PLATA BASIN ON THE REGIONAL CLIMATIC ENVIRONMENT: A STUDY USING CONVENTIONAL LAND-COVER/LAND-USE AND NEWLY DEVELOPED ECOSYSTEM FUNCTIONAL TYPES
Berbery, Ernesto H
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Naturally occurring or human induced changes in land surface vegetation have been recognized as one of the important factors influencing climate change. The La Plata Basin in South America has experienced significant changes in structural land-cover/land-use types, and those changes can involve changes in the surface physical properties such as albedo and roughness length, evapotranspiration, infiltration, and water storage eventually affecting the development of precipita-tion and the hydroclimate of the basin. In this study, the Weather Research and Forecast (WRF) modeling system was employed to investigate the role of changing land surface conditions in the La Plata Basin. For this purpose, ensembles of seasonal simulations were prepared for a control case and two extreme land cover scenarios: the first one assumes an expansion of the agricultural activities and the second one assumes a "natural" vegetation cover where no croplands are present. An extreme anthropogenic land-cover change -simulating an extensive agricultural practice- implies that the northern part of the basin, where croplands replace forests and savannah, would experience an overall increase in albedo and reduced surface friction. The two changes lead to a reduction of sensible heat and surface temperature, and a somewhat higher evapotranspiration due to decreased stomatal resistance and stronger near-surface winds. The effect on sensible heat seems to dominate and leads to a reduction in convective instability. The stronger low level winds due to reduced friction also imply a larger amount of moisture advected out of the basin, and thus resulting in reduced moisture flux convergence (MFC) within the basin. The two effects, increased stability and reduced MFC, result in a reduction of precipitation. On the other hand, the southern part of the basin exhibits the opposite behavior, as crops would replace grasslands, resulting in reduced albedo, a slight increase of surface temperature and increased precipitation. Notably, the results are not strictly local, as advective processes tend to modify the circulation and precipitation patterns downstream over the South Atlantic Ocean. A newly developed land surface classification, so-called Ecosystem Functional Types (EFTs, systems that share homogeneous energy and mass exchanges with the atmosphere), is implemented in the WRF model to explore its usefulness in regional climate simulations of surface and atmospheric variables. Results show that use of the EFT data improves the climate simulation of 2-m temperature and precipitation, making EFTs a good alternative to land cover types in numerical climate models. An additional advantage of EFTs is that they can be calculated on a yearly basis, thus representing the interannual variability of the surface states. During dry years the 2-m temperature and 10-m wind are more sensitive to changes in EFTs, while during wet years the sensitivity is larger for the 2-m water vapor mixing ratio, convective available potential energy, vertically-integrated moisture fluxes and surface precipitation. This indicates that the impact of land-cover and land-use changes on the climate of the LPB is dependent not only on the wetness of the year, but also on the meteorological or climate variables. Comparisons with observations show that the simulated precipitation difference induced by EFT changes resembles the overall pattern of observed precipitation changes for those same years over the LPB. In the case of the 2-m temperature, the simulated changes due to EFT changes are similar to the observed changes in the eastern part and the southern part of the basin (especially in Uruguay), where t he strongest EFT changes occurred.