Land cover changes alter the near surface weather and climate. Changes in land surface properties such as albedo, roughness length, stomatal resistance, and leaf area index alter the surface energy balance, leading to differences in near surface temperatures. This study utilized a newly developed land cover data set for the eastern United States to examine the influence of historical land cover change on June temperatures and precipitation. The new data set contains representations of the land cover and associated biophysical parameters for 1650, 1850, 1920, and 1992, capturing the clearing of the forest and the expansion of agriculture over the eastern United States from 1650 to the early twentieth century and the subsequent forest regrowth. The data set also includes the inferred distribution of potentially water-saturated soils at each time slice for use in the sensitivity tests. The Regional Atmospheric Modeling System, equipped with the Land Ecosystem-Atmosphere Feedback (LEAF-2) land surface parameterization, was used to simulate the weather of June 1996 using the 1992, 1920, 1850, and 1650 land cover representations. The results suggest that changes in surface roughness and stomatal resistance have caused present-day maximum and minimum temperatures in the eastern United States to warm by about 0.3??C and 0.4??C, respectively, when compared to values in 1650. In contrast, the maximum temperatures have remained about the same, while the minimums have cooled by about 0.1??C when compared to 1920. Little change in precipitation was found. Copyright 2008 by the American Geophysical Union.
Additional publication details
Sensitivity of June near-surface temperatures and precipitation in the eastern United States to historical land cover changes since European settlement
Water Resources Research
Earth Resources Observation and Science (EROS) Center