About The Illinois State Water Survey

Climate and Atmospheric Science

Land-Climate Interaction

Trent Ford, David Kristovich

Land use and land-use changes have the potential to significantly affect local and broader-scale climate and extreme weather events. In fact, the impacts of land use can be comparable to increased greenhouse gas emissions. In recent studies, ISWS scientist Trent Ford has worked with Liang Chen (University of Nebraska) to investigate the impact of deforestation on air temperatures, the effects of land use on summer temperature and precipitation, and the role of vegetation in the occurrence of flash droughts.

Findings from observations have shown that deforestation from the harvest of hardwoods or clearing for cropland can significantly affect local high temperature extremes. Simulations from climate models suggest that agricultural expansion over the Great Plains can lead to a widespread increase in precipitation over the crop area. Further, irrigation in summer results in significant cooling in the irrigated area. Studies have also shown that vegetation greening over the spring and summer months can significantly increase flash drought occurrence, particularly in the U.S. Great Plains and the West. The extent of flash droughts is also affected.

These findings emphasize the importance of land use and land management in regional climate and highlight the necessity of considering land management practices in future assessments of regional climate change and climate mitigation.

Illinois State Water Survey

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