INSIGHTS INTO TROPICAL HYDROLOGIC CYCLE VARIABILITY ON MULTIPLE SPATIAL AND TEMPORAL SCALES

Project Details

Description

This research, while geographically focused on the tropics, is nonetheless relevant to the New Jersey Agricultural Experimental Station (NJAES) and the Department of Agriculture's national goal areas by addressing what mechanisms are responsible for changes to the hydrologic cycle-the environmental supply of and demand for water. Since agriculture activities are intimately tied to the water availability, our efforts to ensure a competitive, stable, and sustainable agricultural system depend on understanding the hydrologic cycle and its variability. Such understanding is all the more critical in light of the impacts from anthropogenic climate and environmental change that may occur in the future. While the tropics may seem remote from day-to-day agriculture practice in New Jersey and much of the United States, the direct influences of tropical climate phenomena on regional agricultural sectors in the United States, e.g., El Nino-related floods in California or droughts in the Pacific Northwest or tropical cyclones along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts, may be profound. Moreover, the increasingly integrated nature of the world's agroeconomy requires that we consider climate impacts on agriculture globally. Appreciation of current and potential future climate impacts in the tropics (i.e., latitudes within 30 degrees of the equator, or half of the earth's surface) are likely to influence decisions about domestic agricultural production and its evolution moving forward. Understanding the mechanisms generating the space and time variability of the tropical hydrologic cycle is critical to our ability to simulate climate with models, to interpret observations of past and current climate conditions, and to anticipate future climate change impacts both regionally and globally. Broadly, a thorough diagnosis of hydrologic cycle component processes is crucial for predicting the response of the hydrologic cycle at scales of relevance for decision-making and long-range planning. For example, water resource managers must develop strategies for diverse stakeholder interests across timescales ranging from days to decades; formulating such strategies requires detailed knowledge of hydroclimate characteristics. At present, there are gaps in this knowledge, notably with respect to low-frequency behavior (i.e., periods of decades to centuries) and the occurrence of extreme events. Although the research focus here is tropical, some expected outcomes of this work, e.g., development of diagnostics for quantifying drought characteristics in models and observations, may be directly applicable to extratropical regions. Moreover, it is hoped that knowledge gained by this research will provide insights for model development and refinement, including constraints on convective parameterizations and reduction of known model biases. The improvement of model processes, though spurred by behavior in the tropics, may nonetheless have implications for how models simulate climate and climate change processes at higher latitudes.
StatusFinished
Effective start/end date1/1/1012/31/15

Funding

  • National Institute of Food and Agriculture (National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA))

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