The impact of land cover change on the atmospheric circulation

M. Zhao, A. J. Pitman*, T. Chase

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    113 Citations (Scopus)


    The NCAR Community Climate Model (version 3), coupled to the Biosphere Atmosphere Transfer scheme and a mixed layer ocean model is used to investigate the impact on the climate of a conservative change from natural to present land cover. Natural vegetation cover was obtained from an ecophysiologically constrained biome model. The current vegetation cover was obtained by perturbing the natural cover from forest to grass over areas where land cover has been observed to change. Simulations were performed for 17 years for each case (results from the last 15 years are presented here). We find that land cover changes, largely constrained to the tropics, SE Asia, North America and Europe, cause statistically significant changes in regional temperature and precipitation but cause no impact on the globally averaged temperature or precipitation. The perturbation in land cover in the tropics and SE Asia teleconnect to higher latitudes by changing the position and strength of key elements of the general circulation (the Hadley and Walker circulations). Many of the areas where statistically significant changes occur are remote from the location of land cover change. Historical land cover change is not typically included in transitory climate simulations, and it may be that the simulation of the patterns of temperature change over the twentieth century by climate models will be further improved by taking it into account.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)467-477
    Number of pages11
    JournalClimate Dynamics
    Issue number5-6
    Publication statusPublished - 2001

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    Zhao, M., Pitman, A. J., & Chase, T. (2001). The impact of land cover change on the atmospheric circulation. Climate Dynamics, 17(5-6), 467-477.