The Role of Vegetation Cover on Convective Precipitation Development over the United States Great Plains

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Monday, 3 February 2014: 4:45 PM
Room C210 (The Georgia World Congress Center )
Thomas W. Collow, Rutgers Univ., New Brunswick, NJ; and A. Robock and W. Wu

A series of modeling experiments was conducted using the Weather Research and Forecasting Model to assess the sensitivity of mesoscale convective precipitation patterns to vegetation on a short time scale. Runs were done over the Southern Great Plains of the United States using current vegetation cover, a uniform forest cover, a uniform barren land surface, and a pre-farming scenario in which cropland was changed to native grassland. The goal was to determine how vegetation impacts precipitation and whether pre-farming conditions would result in any meaningful alterations. Individual case studies were chosen to include days with both strong and weak synoptic forcing. Extreme changes in vegetation impacted precipitation, 2 m temperature, 2 m dewpoint, and the convective available potential energy (CAPE). Barren land decreases dewpoint, minimally affects temperature, and decreases CAPE. Forested land decreases temperature, increases dewpoint, and increases CAPE. Changes were more extreme for cases with little synoptic forcing but still substantial in all cases. Strong precipitation reductions occur with a barren land surface while some increases occur on a forested surface. Pre-farming conditions had little impact on the evolution of convective precipitation systems, showing that while vegetation cover is an important component in mesoscale precipitation, the switch from grassland to cropland was insignificant at this scale over this particular region. This means we found no evidence that “rain follows the plow.”