Meso-scale climate change due to lowland deforestation in the maritime tropics

TitleMeso-scale climate change due to lowland deforestation in the maritime tropics
Publication TypeConference Proceedings
Year of Publication2010
AuthorsVan Der Molen, M, Vugts, HF, Scatena, FN, Bruijnzee, LA, Sr., RAPielke, Kroon, LJM
EditorBruijnzee, LA, Scantena, FN, Hamilton, LS
Conference NameTropical Montane Cloud Forests: Science for Conservation and Management Symposium Proceedings
PublisherCambridge University Press
Conference LocationCambridge, UK
Accession NumberLUQ.731
Keywordssurface energy

Annual precipitation on the Caribbean island of Puerto Rico has decreased steadily during the twentieth century, on average by 16%. The reduced rainfall manifested itself in the form of regular water rationings for millions of inhabitants during the 1990's. This chapter examines the link between the reduction in precipitation and the land-cover change using a combination of energy balance measurements and meso-scale atmospheric modeling. The explanation of the reducation in precipitation proved to be different than expected. Based on measurements made earlier over rain forest and pasture in Amazonia, a forest-covered island was expected to be cooler because of the higher transpiration of forest compared to grassland. The opposite proved to be the case: transpiration by a coastal wetland forest was less than that of an adjacent, well-watered grassland. In addition, the forest's albedo was 8% lower than that for the grassland. Together, these two factors caused the sensible heat flux over the forest to be twice that over the grassland. The surface energy balance observations over forest and grassland were used ina meso-scale atmoshpheric circulation model (RAMS) to simulate the meteorological effects of island-wide deforestation. The simulations indicated that the development of a sea breeze during the day dominates the climate on the island. In model runs in which the island was assumed to be completely covered with forest, the sea breeze front, convergence caused upward air motions. As sea breeze convergence was stronger over a forested island, more clouds were formed, albeit at a higher elevation, and there was an estimated 10-20% enhancement of precipitation compared to a deforested enhancement of precipitation compared to a deforested island. In the deforested scenario, the cloud base was typically lowered by 200 m. Refinement of the model is required to obtain more accurate estimates of the changes in precipitation, although most likely the relevant processes have been included.

Short TitleMeso-scale climate change due to lowland deforestation in the maritime tropics