The February 2021 cold air outbreak (CAO) was a high‐impact event in the South‐Central Plains of the United States. This study examines important precursors to the event that likely impacted its predictability in subseasonal forecasts. We use reanalysis to show that the CAO was facilitated by two distinct wave breaks—an East Siberian Sea anticyclonic wave break and a Labrador Sea cyclonic wave break. We also use European Center for Medium‐Range Weather Forecasts and National Center for Environmental Prediction subseasonal‐to‐seasonal models to investigate the impact of the wave breaks on the forecast skill of the event at a ∼2–3 weeks lead time. Ensemble members successfully simulating these features produce more negative temperature anomalies across the Great Plains, corresponding to better positioning of anomalous ridging. These results demonstrate that successfully simulating persistent anticyclones can improve central US extreme cold forecasts at long leads.
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The Role of Wave Breaking in the Development and Subseasonal Forecasts of the February 2021 Great Plains Cold Air Outbreak
AbstractFree, publicly-accessible full text available October 21, 2023
Characteristics, Evolution, and Formation of Cold Air Outbreaks in the Great Plains of the United States
Wintertime cold air outbreaks (CAOs) in the Great Plains of the United States have significant socioeconomic, environmental, and infrastructural impacts; the events of December 1983 and February 2021 are key examples of this. Previous studies have investigated CAOs in other parts of North America, particularly the eastern United States, but the development of CAOs in the Great Plains and their potential subseasonal-to-seasonal (S2S) predictability have yet to be assessed. This study first identifies 37 large-scale CAOs in the Great Plains between 1950 and 2021, before examining their characteristics, evolution, and driving mechanisms. These events occur under two dominant weather regimes at event onset: one set associated with anomalous ridging over Alaska and the other set associated with anomalous pan-Arctic ridging. Alaskan ridge CAOs evolve quickly (i.e., on synoptic time scales) and involve stratospheric wave reflection. Conversely, Arctic high CAOs are preceded by weak stratospheric polar vortex conditions several weeks prior to the event. Both categories of CAOs feature anomalous upward wave activity flux from Siberia, with downward wave activity flux over Canada seen only in the Alaskan ridge CAOs. The rapid development of the Alaskan ridge CAOs, also linked with a North Pacific wave train and anomalous wave activitymore »
Societal Impact Statement
Agriculture touches all aspects of society and global environmental health. Dwindling phosphorous reserves are a looming crisis for civilization, and soil erosion typically far outpaces pedogenesis. Improving plant–mycorrhizal symbioses can enhance sustainable agriculture because mycorrhizas typically improve host‐plant nutrition and stabilize soils. Selective breeding of plants that gain greater benefits from mycorrhizas can provide considerable economic and environmental benefits. Our assessments demonstrate switchgrass genetic improvement increased or maintained production of two populations, and low‐input breeding increased mycorrhizal responsiveness, compared to parent lines. Selecting for increased mycorrhizal reliance may be an effective strategy for more sustainable and economical agricultural production.
Plant–mycorrhizal interactions are not typically assessed in crop breeding programs. Our experiment addresses this by determining host‐plant outcomes of newly developed synthetic (agronomic) populations compared with parent lines, following low‐input selective breeding. Assessing the potential of low‐input breeding to enhance crop mycorrhizal benefits is a critical step toward more sustainable agricultural production.
We compared four synthetic populations of
Panicum virgatum, from a low‐input biofuel breeding program at Oklahoma State University, to corresponding parent lines. Plants were grown in a greenhouse in native prairie soils that were either steam‐pasteurized (nonmycorrhizal) or non‐steamed (mycorrhizal).
We assessed shoot and root biomass, shoot Pmore »
There are substantial opportunities for plant traits associated with increased MGR and MPR to be transferred to a wide array of crops. Our findings indicate low‐input selective breeding can improve MGR and MPR. We propose these traits serve as a useful proxy for host‐plant mycorrhizal reliance, facilitating successful hologenome breeding to reduce fertilizer requirements.
Manipulating plant microbiomes in the field: Native mycorrhizae advance plant succession and improve native plant restoration
The plant microbiome is critical to plant health and is degraded with anthropogenic disturbance. However, the value of re‐establishing the native microbiome is rarely considered in ecological restoration. Arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) fungi are particularly important microbiome components, as they associate with most plants, and later successional grassland plants are strongly responsive to native AM fungi.
With five separate sites across the United States, we inoculated mid‐ and late successional plant seedlings with one of three types of native microbiome amendments: (a) whole rhizosphere soil collected from local old‐growth, undisturbed grassland communities in Illinois, Kansas or Oklahoma, (b) laboratory cultured AM fungi from these same old‐growth grassland sites or (c) no microbiome amendment. We also seeded each restoration with a diverse native seed mixture. Plant establishment and growth was followed for three growing seasons.
The reintroduction of soil microbiome from native ecosystems improved restoration establishment.
Including only native arbuscular mycorrhizal fungal communities produced similar improvements in plant establishment as what was found with whole soil microbiome amendment. These findings were robust across plant functional groups.
Inoculated plants (amended with either AM fungi or whole soil) also grew more leaves and were generally taller during the three growing seasons.
Synthesis and applications. Our research shows thatmore »
Spatial variability in tree-ring carbon isotope discrimination in response to local drought across the entire loblolly pine natural range
Considering the temporal responses of carbon isotope discrimination (Δ13C) to local water availability in the spatial analysis of Δ13C is essential for evaluating the contribution of environmental and genetic facets of plant Δ13C. Using tree-ring Δ13C from years with contrasting water availability at 76 locations across the natural range of loblolly pine, we decomposed site-level Δ13C signals to maximum Δ13C in well-watered conditions (Δ13Cmax) and isotopic drought sensitivity (m) as a change in Δ13C per unit change of Palmer’s Drought Severity Index (PDSI). Site water status, especially the tree lifetime average PDSI, was the primary factor affecting Δ13Cmax. The strong spatial correlation exhibited by m was related to both genetic and environmental factors. The long-term average water availability during the period relevant to trees as indicated by lifetime average PDSI correlated with Δ13Cmax, suggesting acclimation in tree gas-exchange traits, independent of incident water availability. The positive correlation between lifetime average PDSI and m indicated that loblolly pines were more sensitive to drought at mesic than xeric sites. The m was found to relate to a plant’s stomatal control and may be employed as a genetic indicator of efficient water use strategies. Partitioning Δ13C to Δ13Cmax and m provided amore »
Improved productivity, water yield, and water use efficiency by incorporating switchgrass cultivation and native ecosystems in an integrated biofuel feedstock system
The southern Great Plains of the USA has great potential to produce biofuel feedstock while minimizing the dual stresses of woody plant encroachment and climate change. Switchgrass (
Panicum virgatum) cultivation, woody biomass captured during removal of the encroaching eastern redcedar ( Juniperus virginiana) to restore grasslands and thinning of the native oak forest can provide an integrated source of feedstock and improve ecosystem services. In north‐central Oklahoma, we quantified productivity and ecosystem water use of switchgrass stands and degraded ecosystems encroached by eastern redcedar and compared these to native oak forest and tallgrass prairie ecosystems. We measured aboveground net primary productivity (ANPP) using allometric equations (trees) and clip plots (herbaceous), and evapotranspiration (ET) using a water balance approach from gauged watersheds, and calculated water use efficiency (WUE = ANPP/ET) from 2016 to 2019. Among vegetation cover types, ANPP averaged 5.1, 5.4, 6.0, and 7.8 Mg ha−1 year−1for the prairie, oak, eastern redcedar, and switchgrass watersheds and was significantly greater for switchgrass in 2018 and 2019 (2 and 3 years post establishment) when it reached 8.6 Mg ha−1 year−1. Averaged across 2017–2019, ET was significantly greater in the forested watersheds than the grassland watersheds (1022 mm year−1for eastern redcedar, 1025 mm year−1for oak, 874 mm year−1for prairie, and 828 mm year−1for switchgrass). The mean WUE was significantly greatermore »
Spatiotemporal variability and key factors of evergreen forest encroachment in the southern Great PlainsFree, publicly-accessible full text available March 1, 2024
Resilience assessment and enhancement evaluation of power distribution systems subjected to ice stormsFree, publicly-accessible full text available February 1, 2024
A support vector machine and image processing based approach for counting open cotton bolls and estimating lint yield from UAV imageryFree, publicly-accessible full text available February 1, 2024