The Impact of Anthropogenic Land-Cover Change on the Florida Peninsula Sea Breezes and Warm Season Sensible Weather

Marshall, Curtis H.; Pielke Sr., Roger A.; Steyaert, Louis T.; Willard, Debra A.
January 2004
Monthly Weather Review;Jan2004, Vol. 132 Issue 1, p28
Academic Journal
During the twentieth century, the natural landscape of the Florida peninsula was transformed extensively by agriculture, urbanization, and the diversion of surface water features. The purpose of this paper is to present a numerical modeling study in which the possible impacts of this transformation on the warm season climate of the region were investigated. For three separate July–August periods (1973, 1989, and 1994), a pair of simulations was performed with the Regional Atmospheric Modeling System. Within each pair, the simulations differed only in the specification of land-cover class. The two different classes were specified using highly detailed datasets that were constructed to represent pre-1900 natural land cover and 1993 land-use patterns, thus capturing the landscape transformation within each pair of simulations. When the pre-1900 natural cover was replaced with the 1993 land-use dataset, the simulated spatial patterns of the surface sensible and latent heat flux were altered significantly, resulting in changes in the structure and strength of climatologically persistent, surface-forced mesoscale circulations—particularly the afternoon sea-breeze fronts. This mechanism was associated with marked changes in the spatial distribution of convective rainfall totals over the peninsula. When averaged over the model domain, this redistribution was reflected as an overall decrease in the 2-month precipitation total. In addition, the domain average of the diurnal cycle of 2-m temperature was amplified, with a noted increase in the daytime maximum. These results were consistent among all three simulated periods, and largely unchanged when subjected to a number of model sensitivity factors. Furthermore, the model results are in reasonable agreement with an analysis of observational data that indicates decreasing regional precipitation and increasing daytime maximum temperature during the twentieth century. These results could have important implications for water resource and land-use management issues in south Florida, including efforts to restore and preserve the natural hydroclimate of the Everglades ecosystem. This study also provides more evidence for the need to consider anthropogenic land-cover change when evaluating climate trends.


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