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Climate 2014, 2(2), 103-128; doi:10.3390/cli2020103

The Effects of Great Plains Irrigation on the Surface Energy Balance, Regional Circulation, and Precipitation

Atmospheric Science Program, Department of Geography, University of Kansas, 1475 Jayhawk Blvd. ,213 Lindley, Lawrence, KS 66045, USA
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Received: 10 February 2014 / Revised: 15 April 2014 / Accepted: 16 April 2014 / Published: 5 May 2014
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Abstract

Irrigation provides a needed source of water in regions of low precipitation. Adding water to a region that would otherwise see little natural precipitation alters the partitioning of surface energy fluxes, the evolution of the planetary boundary layer, and the atmospheric transport of water vapor. The effects of irrigation are investigated in this paper through the employment of the Advanced Research (ARW) Weather Research and Forecasting Model (WRF) using a pair of simulations representing the extremes of an irrigated and non-irrigated U.S. Great Plains region. In common with previous studies, irrigation in the Great Plains alters the radiation budget by increasing latent heat flux and cooling the surface temperatures. These effects increase the net radiation at the surface, channeling that energy into additional latent heat flux, which increases convective available potential energy and provides downstream convective systems with additional energy and moisture. Most noteworthy in this study is the substantial influence of irrigation on the structure of the Great Plains Low-level Jet (GPLLJ). The simulation employing irrigation is characterized by a positive 850-mb geopotential height anomaly, a result interpreted by quasi-geostrophic theory to be a response to low-level irrigation-induced cooling. The modulation of the regional-scale height pattern associated with the GPLLJ results in weaker flow southeast of the 850-mb anomaly and stronger flow to the northwest. Increased latent heat flux in the irrigated simulation is greater than the decrease in regional transport, resulting in a net increase in atmospheric moisture and a nearly 50% increase in July precipitation downstream of irrigated regions without any change to the number of precipitation events. View Full-Text
Keywords: irrigation; regional climate; mesoscale model; WRF; precipitation; low-level jet; LLJ irrigation; regional climate; mesoscale model; WRF; precipitation; low-level jet; LLJ
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MDPI and ACS Style

Huber, D.B.; Mechem, D.B.; Brunsell, N.A. The Effects of Great Plains Irrigation on the Surface Energy Balance, Regional Circulation, and Precipitation. Climate 2014, 2, 103-128.

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