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  1. Ecology and the climate provide two perspectives of the same biogeophysical system at all spatiotemporal scales More effectively embracing this congruence is an opportunity to improve scientific understanding and predictions as well as for a more effective policy that integrates both the bottom-up community, business-driven framework, and the popular, top-down impact assessment framework. The objective of this paper is, therefore, to more closely integrate the diverse spectrum of scientists, engineers and policymakers into finding optimal solutions to reduce the risk to environmental and social threats by considering the ecology and climate as an integrated system. Assessments such as performed towards the 2030 Plan for Sustainable Development, with its 17 Sustainable Development Goals and its Goal 13 in particular, can achieve more progress by accounting for the intimate connection of all aspects of the Earth’s biogeophysical system. 
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  2. Risks from human intervention in the climate system are raising concerns with respect to individual species and ecosystem health and resiliency. A dominant approach uses global climate models to predict changes in climate in the coming decades and then to downscale this information to assess impacts to plant communities, animal habitats, agricultural and urban ecosystems, and other parts of the Earth’s life system. To achieve robust assessments of the threats to these systems in this top-down, outcome vulnerability approach, however, requires skillful prediction, and representation of changes in regional and local climate processes, which has not yet been satisfactorily achieved. Moreover, threats to biodiversity and ecosystem function, such as from invasive species, are in general, not adequately included in the assessments. We discuss a complementary assessment framework that builds on a bottom-up vulnerability concept that requires the determination of the major human and natural forcings on the environment including extreme events, and the interactions between these forcings. After these forcings and interactions are identified, then the relative risks of each issue can be compared with other risks or forcings in order to adopt optimal mitigation/adaptation strategies. This framework is a more inclusive way of assessing risks, including climate variability and longer-term natural and anthropogenic-driven change, than the outcome vulnerability approach which is mainly based on multi-decadal global and regional climate model predictions. We therefore conclude that the top-down approach alone is outmoded as it is inadequate for robustly assessing risks to biodiversity and ecosystem function. In contrast the bottom-up, integrative approach is feasible and much more in line with the needs of the assessment and conservation community. A key message of our paper is to emphasize the need to consider coupled feedbacks since the Earth is a dynamically interactive system. This should be done not just in the model structure, but also in its application and subsequent analyses. We recognize that the community is moving toward that goal and we urge an accelerated pace. 
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  3. Abstract

    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.

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  4. 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. 
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  5. null (Ed.)
    Abstract Extreme flooding over southern Louisiana in mid-August of 2016 resulted from an unusual tropical low that formed and intensified over land. We used numerical experiments to highlight the role of the ‘Brown Ocean’ effect (where saturated soils function similar to a warm ocean surface) on intensification and it’s modulation by land cover change. A numerical modeling experiment that successfully captured the flood event (control) was modified to alter moisture availability by converting wetlands to open water, wet croplands, and dry croplands. Storm evolution in the control experiment with wet antecedent soils most resembles tropical lows that form and intensify over oceans. Irrespective of soil moisture conditions, conversion of wetlands to croplands reduced storm intensity, and also, non-saturated soils reduced rain by 20% and caused shorter durations of high intensity wind conditions. Developing agricultural croplands and more so restoring wetlands and not converting them into open water can impede intensification of tropical systems that affect the area. 
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