Wind Run Changes: The Dominant Factor Affecting Pan Evaporation Trends in Australia

Rayner, D. P.
July 2007
Journal of Climate;Jul2007, Vol. 20 Issue 14, p3379
Academic Journal
The Class A pan evaporation rates at many Australian observing stations have reportedly decreased between 1970 and 2002. That pan evaporation rates have decreased at the same time that temperatures have increased has become known as the “pan evaporation paradox.” Pan evaporation is primarily dependant on relative humidity, solar radiation, and wind. In this paper, trends in observed pan evaporation in Australia during the period 1975–2004 were attributed to changes in other climate variables using a Penman-style pan evaporation model. Trends in daily average wind speed (termed wind run) were found to be an important cause of trends in pan evaporation. This result is a significant step toward resolving the pan evaporation paradox for Australia. Data inspection and interstation comparison revealed that some of the significant wind run trends were discontinuous or spatially uncorrelated. These analyses raised the possibility that some of the changes in observed wind run, and by implication some of the significant changes in pan evaporation, may represent changes in the local environment surrounding the observing stations. Daily pressure gradients and NCEP–NCAR reanalysis wind surfaces were analyzed in an attempt to identify any climatological wind run trends associated with large-scale changes in atmospheric circulations. Unfortunately, the trends from the two data sources were not consistent, and the challenge remains to conclusively identify the cause or causes of the changes in observed station wind run in Australia.


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