Empirical evidence for a recent slowdown in irrigation-induced cooling

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Understanding the influence of past land use changes on climate is needed to improve regional projections of future climate change and inform debates about the tradeoffs associated with land use decisions. The effects of rapid expansion of irrigated area in the 20th century has remained unclear relative to other land use changes, such as urbanization, that affected a similar total land area. Using spatial and temporal variations in temperature and irrigation extent observed in California, we show that irrigation expansion has had a large cooling effect on summertime average daily daytime temperatures (-0.15 to -0.25 C.decade{sup -1}), which corresponds to ... continued below

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Bonfils, C & Lobell, D January 19, 2007.

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Understanding the influence of past land use changes on climate is needed to improve regional projections of future climate change and inform debates about the tradeoffs associated with land use decisions. The effects of rapid expansion of irrigated area in the 20th century has remained unclear relative to other land use changes, such as urbanization, that affected a similar total land area. Using spatial and temporal variations in temperature and irrigation extent observed in California, we show that irrigation expansion has had a large cooling effect on summertime average daily daytime temperatures (-0.15 to -0.25 C.decade{sup -1}), which corresponds to a cooling estimated at -2.0 - -3.3 C since the introduction of irrigation practice. Irrigation has negligible effects on nighttime temperatures, leading to a net cooling effect of irrigation on climate (-0.06 to -0.19 C.decade{sup -1}). Stabilization of irrigated area has occurred in California since 1980 and is expected in the near future for most irrigated regions. The suppression of past human-induced greenhouse warming by increased irrigation is therefore likely to slow in the future, and a potential decrease in irrigation may even contribute to a more rapid warming. Changes in irrigation alone are not expected to influence broadscale temperatures, but they may introduce large uncertainties in climate projections for irrigated agricultural regions, which provide roughly 40% of global food production.

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PDF-file: 28 pages; size: 0.4 Mbytes

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  • Journal Name: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, vol. 104, no. 34, August 21, 2007, pp. 13582-13587; Journal Volume: 104; Journal Issue: 34

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  • Report No.: UCRL-JRNL-229604
  • Grant Number: W-7405-ENG-48
  • Office of Scientific & Technical Information Report Number: 940480
  • Archival Resource Key: ark:/67531/metadc898645

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Office of Scientific & Technical Information Technical Reports

Reports, articles and other documents harvested from the Office of Scientific and Technical Information.

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  • January 19, 2007

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  • Sept. 27, 2016, 1:39 a.m.

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  • Dec. 7, 2016, 11:08 a.m.

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Bonfils, C & Lobell, D. Empirical evidence for a recent slowdown in irrigation-induced cooling, article, January 19, 2007; Livermore, California. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc898645/: accessed December 14, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.