February 2, 2022 - 3:30 pm
February 2, 2022 - 4:30 pm
CategoriesWeather and Climate Systems
Weather and Climate Systems
Wednesday, February 2
The northern North American Great Plains (NNAGP) is the area defined by the Upper Missouri River Basin and the Canadian Prairies. It is a semi-arid region categorized by large stretches of grassland, pasture, and crops. During the last century and extending to the present day, a standard agricultural practice was to utilize a wheat-summer fallow rotation schedule, where the fields were left unplatted and an herbicide was often applied to keep weeds at bay. Concerns over soil health and profitability have led to the systematic decline of summer fallow, and nearly 116,000 km2 that used to be fallow during the summer in the 1970s are now planted.
An observational analysis discovered that from 1970-2015, during the early warm season, the NNAGP have cooled at âˆ’0.18 Â°C decade-1, nearly the same magnitude as the annual global warming rate. The near-surface atmosphere also moistened, evidenced by a decreasing vapor pressure deficit (VPD) trend, and monthly mean precipitation increased in excess of 8 mm per decade.
To test whether a reduction in summer fallow is responsible for these observed changes, a set of convection-permitting model experiments were performed over the NNAGP. Two three-year simulations were driven by ERA5 data with the vegetative fraction adjusted using satellite estimated fallow amounts for 2011 and 1984.
The areas where fallow area declined from 1984-2011 were cooler by about 1.5 Â°C and had a lower VPD by 0.15 kPa compared to where it did not. These findings insinuate that the observed change to monthly mean precipitation cannot be explained by summer fallow reduction alone. Trends in observed low level moisture transport show that the Great Plains Low Level Jet has been intensifying, bringing increased moisture to the NNAGP and partially responsible for the precipitation increase.