skip to main content

Title: Irrigated Agriculture Significantly Modifies Seasonal Boundary Layer Atmosphere and Lower-Tropospheric Convective Environment

Modification of grasslands into irrigated and nonirrigated agriculture in the Great Plains resulted in significant impacts on weather and climate. However, there has been lack of observational data–based studies solely focused on impacts of irrigation on the PBL and convective conditions. The Great Plains Irrigation Experiment (GRAINEX), conducted during the 2018 growing season, collected data over irrigated and nonirrigated land uses over Nebraska to understand these impacts. Specifically, the objective was to determine whether the impacts of irrigation are sustained throughout the growing season. The data analyzed include latent and sensible heat flux, air temperature, dewpoint temperature, equivalent temperature (moist enthalpy), PBL height, lifting condensation level (LCL), level of free convection (LFC), and PBL mixing ratio. Results show increased partitioning of energy into latent heat relative to sensible heat over irrigated areas while average maximum air temperature was decreased and dewpoint temperature was increased from the early to peak growing season. Radiosonde data suggest reduced planetary boundary layer (PBL) heights at all launch sites from the early to peak growing season. However, reduction of PBL height was much greater over irrigated areas than over nonirrigated croplands. Relative to the early growing period, LCL and LFC heights were also lower during the peak growing period over irrigated areas. Results note, for the first time, that the impacts of irrigation on PBL evolution and convective environment can be sustained throughout the growing season and regardless of background atmospheric conditions. These are important findings and applicable to other irrigated areas in the world.

Significance Statement

To meet the ever-increasing demand for food, many regions of the world have adopted widespread irrigation. The High Plains Aquifer (HPA) region, located within the Great Plains of the United States, is one of the most extensively irrigated regions. In this study, for the first time, we have conducted a detailed irrigation-focused land surface and atmospheric data collection campaign to determine irrigation impacts on the atmosphere. This research demonstrates that irrigation significantly alters lower atmospheric characteristics and creates favorable cloud and convection development conditions during the growing season. The results clearly show first-order impacts of irrigation on regional weather and climate and hence warrant further attention so that we can minimize negative impacts and achieve sustainable irrigation.

more » « less
Award ID(s):
Author(s) / Creator(s):
 ;  ;  ;  ;  ;  ;  ;  ;  ;  ;  ;  ;  ;  ;  ;  
Publisher / Repository:
American Meteorological Society
Date Published:
Journal Name:
Journal of Applied Meteorology and Climatology
Medium: X Size: p. 245-262
["p. 245-262"]
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. Abstract This paper analyzed observations from the Great Plains Irrigation Experiment (GRAINEX) to better understand L-A interactions and PBL evolution. This study is focused on a day when the largest forcing on the boundary layer originated from the land surface/land use. To examine these impacts, we also applied the Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) model. Results from the observations show that compared to non-irrigated areas, air temperature, wind speed, and PBL height were lower while dew point temperature and latent heat flux were higher over irrigated areas. Findings suggest that entrainment layer drying and differences in energy partitioning over irrigated and non-irrigated areas played an important role in PBL evolution. In the final hours of the day, the PBL collapsed faster over non-irrigated areas compared to irrigated. The WRF model simulations agree with these observations. They also show that the extent of irrigation (expressed as irrigation fraction or IF) in an area impacts L-A response. Under ∼60% IF, the latent heat flux and mixing ratio reach their highest value while temperature and PBLH are at their lowest, and sensible heat flux is near its lowest value. Results are reversed for ∼2% IF. It is concluded that irrigation notably impacts L-A interactions and PBL evolution. 
    more » « less
  2. null (Ed.)
    Abstract Extensive expansion in irrigated agriculture has taken place over the last half century. Due to increased irrigation and resultant land-use–land-cover change, the central United States has seen a decrease in temperature and changes in precipitation during the second half of the twentieth century. To investigate the impacts of widespread commencement of irrigation at the beginning of the growing season and continued irrigation throughout the summer on local and regional weather, the Great Plains Irrigation Experiment (GRAINEX) was conducted in the spring and summer of 2018 in southeastern Nebraska. GRAINEX consisted of two 15-day intensive observation periods. Observational platforms from multiple agencies and universities were deployed to investigate the role of irrigation in surface moisture content, heat fluxes, diurnal boundary layer evolution, and local precipitation. This article provides an overview of the data collected and an analysis of the role of irrigation in land–atmosphere interactions on time scales from the seasonal to the diurnal. The analysis shows that a clear irrigation signal was apparent during the peak growing season in mid-July. This paper shows the strong impact of irrigation on surface fluxes, near-surface temperature and humidity, and boundary layer growth and decay. 
    more » « less
  3. Abstract

    Correctly calculating the timing and amount of crop irrigation is crucial for capturing irrigation effects on surface water and energy budgets and land‐atmosphere interactions. This study incorporated a dynamic irrigation scheme into the Noah with multiparameterization land surface model and investigated three methods of determining crop growing season length by agriculture management data. The irrigation scheme was assessed at field scales using observations from two contrasting (irrigated and rainfed) AmeriFlux sites near Mead, Nebraska. Results show that crop‐specific growing‐season length helped capture the first application timing and total irrigation amount, especially for soybeans. With a calibrated soil‐moisture triggering threshold (IRR_CRI), using planting and harvesting dates alone could reasonably predict the first application for maize. For soybeans, additional constraints on growing season were required to correct an early bias in the first modeled application. Realistic leaf area index input was essential for identifying the leaf area index‐based growing season. When transitioning from field to regional scales, the county‐level calibrated IRR_CRI helped mitigate overestimated (underestimated) total irrigation amount in southeastern Nebraska (lower Mississippi River Basin). In these two heavily irrigated regions, irrigation produced a cooling effect of 0.8–1.4 K, a moistening effect of 1.2–2.4 g/kg, a reduction in sensible heat flux by 60–105 W/m2, and an increase in latent heat flux by 75–120 W/m2. Most of irrigation water was used to increase soil moisture and evaporation, rather than runoff. Lacking regional‐scale irrigation timing and crop‐specific parameters makes transferring the evaluation and parameter‐constraint methods from field to regional scales difficult.

    more » « less
  4. null (Ed.)
    Abstract In the context of forecasting societally impactful Great Plains low-level jets (GPLLJs), the potential added value of satellite soil moisture (SM) data assimilation (DA) is high. GPLLJs are both sensitive to regional soil moisture gradients and frequent drivers of severe weather, including mesoscale convective systems. An untested hypothesis is that SM DA is more effective in forecasts of weakly synoptically forced, or uncoupled GPLLJs, than in forecasts of cyclone-induced coupled GPLLJs. Using the NASA Unified Weather Research and Forecasting (NU-WRF) Model, 75 GPLLJs are simulated at 9-km resolution both with and without NASA Soil Moisture Active Passive SM DA. Differences in modeled SM, surface sensible (SH) and latent heat (LH) fluxes, 2-m temperature (T2), 2-m humidity (Q2), PBL height (PBLH), and 850-hPa wind speed (W850) are quantified for individual jets and jet-type event subsets over the south-central Great Plains, as well as separately for each GPLLJ sector (entrance, core, and exit). At the GPLLJ core, DA-related changes of up to 5.4 kg m −2 in SM can result in T2, Q2, LH, SH, PBLH, and W850 differences of 0.68°C, 0.71 g kg −2 , 59.9 W m −2 , 52.4 W m −2 , 240 m, and 4 m s −1 , respectively. W850 differences focus along the jet axis and tend to increase from south to north. Jet-type differences are most evident at the GPLLJ exit where DA increases and decreases W850 in uncoupled and coupled GPLLJs, respectively. Data assimilation marginally reduces negative wind speed bias for all jets, but the correction is greater for uncoupled GPLLJs, as hypothesized. 
    more » « less
  5. The Great Plains (GP) low-level jet (GPLLJ) contributes to GP warm season water resources (precipitation), wind resources, and severe weather outbreaks. Past research has shown that synoptic and local mesoscale physical mechanisms (Holton and Blackadar mechanisms) are required to explain GPLLJ variability. Although soil moisture–PBL interactions are central to local mechanistic theories, the diurnal effect of regional soil moisture anomalies on GPLLJ speed, northward penetration, and propensity for severe weather is not well known. In this study, two 31-member WRF-ARW stochastic kinetic energy backscatter scheme ensembles simulate a typical warm season GPLLJ case under CONUS-wide wet and dry soil moisture scenarios. In the GP (24°–48°N, 103°–90°W), ensemble mean differences in sensible heating and PBL height of 25–150 W m −2 and 100–700 m, respectively, at 2100 UTC (afternoon) culminate in GPLLJ 850-hPa wind speed differences of 1–4 m s −1 12 hours later (0900 UTC; early morning). Greater heat accumulation in the daytime PBL over dry soil impacts the east–west geopotential height gradient in the GP (synoptic conditions and Holton mechanism) resulting in a deeper thermal low in the northern GP, causing increases in the geostrophic wind. Enhanced daytime turbulent mixing over dry soil impacts the PBL structure (Blackadar mechanism), leading to increased ageostrophic wind. Overnight geostrophic and ageostrophic winds constructively interact, leading to a faster nocturnal GPLLJ over dry soil. Ensemble differences in CIN (~50–150 J kg −1 ) and CAPE (~500–1000 J kg −1 ) have implications for severe weather predictability. 
    more » « less