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Climate 2014, 2(2), 47-77; doi:10.3390/cli2020047

Impacts of Urban Development on Precipitation in the Tropical Maritime Climate of Puerto Rico

1,2,* , 2
1 COSUAM de Puerto Rico, 380 Roosevelt, Hato Rey, PR 00918, USA 2 Department of Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences, Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN 49706, USA
* Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 5 December 2013 / Revised: 5 April 2014 / Accepted: 9 April 2014 / Published: 22 April 2014
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Land-Use/Cover Change Impacts on Climate)


Water is critical for sustaining natural and managed ecosystems, and precipitation is a key component in the water cycle. To understand controls on long-term changes in precipitation for scientific and environmental management applications it is necessary to examine whether local land use and land cover change (LULCC) has played a significant role in changing historical precipitation patterns and trends. For the small tropical island of Puerto Rico, where maritime climate is dominant, we used long-term precipitation and land use and land cover data to assess whether there were any detectable impacts of LULCC on monthly and yearly precipitation patterns and trends over the past century. Particular focus was given to detecting impacts from the urban landscape on mesoscale climates across Puerto Rico. We found no statistical evidence for significant differences between average monthly precipitation in urban and non-urban areas directly from surface stations, but, after subdividing by Holdridge Ecological Life Zones (HELZs) in a GIS, there were statistically significant differences (α = 0.05) in yearly average total precipitation between urban and non-urban areas in most HELZs. Precipitation in Puerto Rico has been decreasing over the past century as a result of a decrease in precipitation during periods (months or years) of low rain. However, precipitation trends at particular stations contradict synoptic-scale long-term trends, which suggests that local land use/land cover effects are driving precipitation variability at local scales.
Keywords: precipitation; urban climate; spatial analysis; land use change precipitation; urban climate; spatial analysis; land use change
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY) which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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Torres-Valcárcel, Á.; Harbor, J.; González-Avilés, C.; Torres-Valcárcel, A. Impacts of Urban Development on Precipitation in the Tropical Maritime Climate of Puerto Rico. Climate 2014, 2, 47-77.

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