skip to main content

Title: Would Forest Regrowth Compensate for Climate Change in the Amazon Basin?
Following potential reforestation in the Amazon Basin, changes in the biophysical characteristics of the land surface may affect the fluxes of heat and moisture behavior. This research examines the impacts of potential tropical reforestation on surface energy and moisture budgets, including precipitation and temperature. The study is novel in that while most studies look at the opposite driver (deforestation), this one examines the impact of potential forest rehabilitation on atmospheric behavior using WRF.V3.9 (weather research and forecast model). We found that forest rehabilitation across the Amazon Basin can make the atmosphere cooler with more moisture and latent heat (LH), especially during May-November. For instance, the mean seasonal temperature decreased significantly by about 1.2 °C, indicating the cooling effects of reforestation. Also, the seasonal precipitation increased by 5 mm/day in reforested areas. By reforestation, the mean monthly LH also increased as much as 50 W m−2 in August in certain areas, while available moisture to the atmosphere increased by 27%, indicating possible causal mechanisms between increased LH and precipitation and emphasizing the mechanisms that were identified between the onset of the wet season and forest cover. Therefore, it is likely that forest regrowth across the basin leads to, if not reverses regional climate change, at least slowing down the rate of changes in the climate.  more » « less
Award ID(s):
Author(s) / Creator(s):
; ;
Date Published:
Journal Name:
Applied Sciences
Page Range / eLocation ID:
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. Abstract

    Land‐use/cover change (LUCC) is an important driver of environmental change, occurring at the same time as, and often interacting with, global climate change. Reforestation and deforestation have been critical aspects of LUCC over the past two centuries and are widely studied for their potential to perturb the global carbon cycle. More recently, there has been keen interest in understanding the extent to which reforestation affects terrestrial energy cycling and thus surface temperature directly by altering surface physical properties (e.g., albedo and emissivity) and land–atmosphere energy exchange. The impacts of reforestation on land surface temperature and their mechanisms are relatively well understood in tropical and boreal climates, but the effects of reforestation on warming and/or cooling in temperate zones are less certain. This study is designed to elucidate the biophysical mechanisms that link land cover and surface temperature in temperate ecosystems. To achieve this goal, we used data from six paired eddy‐covariance towers over co‐located forests and grasslands in the temperate eastern United States, where radiation components, latent and sensible heat fluxes, and meteorological conditions were measured. The results show that, at the annual time scale, the surface of the forests is 1–2°C cooler than grasslands, indicating a substantial cooling effect of reforestation. The enhanced latent and sensible heat fluxes of forests have an average cooling effect of −2.5°C, which offsets the net warming effect (+1.5°C) of albedo warming (+2.3°C) and emissivity cooling effect (−0.8°C) associated with surface properties. Additional daytime cooling over forests is driven by local feedbacks to incoming radiation. We further show that the forest cooling effect is most pronounced when land surface temperature is higher, often exceeding −5°C. Our results contribute important observational evidence that reforestation in the temperate zone offers opportunities for local climate mitigation and adaptation.

    more » « less
  2. Abstract

    In the Amazon basin, intense precipitation recycling across the forest significantly modifies the isotopic composition of rainfall (δ18O, δD). In the tropical hydrologic cycle, such an effect can be identified through deuterium excess (dxs), yet it remains unclear what environmental factors control dxs, increasing the uncertainty of dxs‐based paleoclimate reconstructions. Here we present a 4‐year record of the isotopic composition of rainfall, monitored in the northwestern Amazon basin. We analyze the isotopic variations as a function of the air mass history, based on atmospheric back trajectory analyses, satellite observations of precipitation upstream, leaf area index, and simulated moisture recycling along the transport pathway. We show that the precipitation recycling in the forest exerts a significant control on the isotopic composition of precipitation in the northwestern Amazon basin, especially on dxs during the dry season (r= 0.71). Applying these observations to existing speleothem and pollen paleorecords, we conclude that winter precipitation increased after the mid‐Holocene, as the expansion of the forest allowed for more moisture recycling. Therefore, forest effects should be considered when interpreting paleorecords of past precipitation changes.

    more » « less
  3. Abstract Understanding the roles of land surface conditions and atmospheric circulation on continental daily temperature variance is key to improving predictions of temperature extremes. Evaporative resistance ( r s , hereafter), a function of the land cover type, reflects the ease with which water can be evaporated or transpired and is a strong control on land-atmosphere interactions. This study explores the effects of r s perturbations on summer daily temperature variance using the Simple Land Interface Model (SLIM) by mimicking, for r s only, a global land cover conversion from forest to crop/grassland. Decreasing r s causes a global cooling. The cooling is larger in wetter areas and weaker in drier areas, and primarily results from perturbations in shortwave radiation (SW) and latent heat flux (LH). Decreasing r s enhances cloud cover due to greater land surface evaporation and thus reduces incoming SW over most land areas. When r s decreases, wetter areas experience strong evaporative cooling, while drier areas become more moisture-limited and thus experience less cooling. Thermal advection further shapes the temperature response by damping the combined impacts of SWand LH. Temperature variance increases in drier areas and decreases in wetter areas as r s decreases. The temperature variance changes can be largely explained from changes in the combined variance of SW and LH, including an important contribution of changes in the covariance of SW and LH. In contrast, the effects of changes in thermal advection variance mainly affect the Northern Hemisphere mid-latitudes. 
    more » « less
  4. Abstract

    Land–atmosphere interactions are a critical component of precipitation processes within the Amazon basin and La Plata River basin (LPRB) in South America. Two of the possible pathways through which the land surface can affect precipitation are 1) by changing the amount of moisture available for precipitation (moisture recycling) and 2) by changing the atmospheric thermal structure and consequently affecting circulation patterns. In this study, the Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) Model with embedded water vapor tracers (WVT) is used to disentangle these relative contributions, with a particular focus on the precipitation of LPRB. Using WRF-WVT we track the moisture that originates from the Amazon basin over a 10-yr period. It is estimated that Amazon evapotranspiration (ET) contributes to around 30% of the total precipitation over the Amazon and around 16% over the LPRB. Focusing on large-scale circulation patterns that transport moisture into the LPRB, we show that land surface conditions in northwestern Argentina are critical for the meridional transport of moisture to higher latitudes via Chaco jet events (CJEs). Warm surface air temperature associated with dry soil moisture over northwestern Argentina is linked to enhanced CJE northerly low-level winds that intensify moisture transport by changing continental-scale circulation patterns. WRF sensitivity tests confirm that soil moisture variations over this region affect meridional moisture transport.

    more » « less
  5. Abstract

    Rainforest in protected areas in the Brazilian Amazon is at risk due to increasing economic pressures and recent weakening of environmental agencies and legislation by the federal administration. This study examines the impacts of deforestation in protected areas on dry‐season precipitation in the Brazilian state of Rondônia located in the southwestern Brazilian Amazon. Regional‐climate model simulations indicate that clearing protected forests in Rondônia would result in substantial changes to the surface energy balance, including increased sensible and decreased latent heat flux. Consequent changes to low‐level wind circulation would enhance moisture flux convergence and convection over the newly deforested areas, leading to enhanced rainfall in those areas. However, deforestation of protected areas would decrease dry season rainfall up to 30% in the existing agricultural region, with potentially important negative impacts on agricultural production. Additionally, our results indicate that following deforestation, the newly degraded areas will experience warmer and drier afternoons that could place the remaining natural vegetation under vapor deficit stress.

    more » « less