Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, Department of


Date of this Version

Summer 6-28-2016


Aegerter, C. J., 2016: Modeling and Satellite Remote Sensing of the Meteorological Impacts of Irrigation During the 2012 Central Plains Drought. M.S. thesis, Dept. of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, 66 pp.


A THESIS Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Master of Science, Major: Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, Under the Supervision of Professor Jun Wang. Lincoln, Nebraska: June, 2016

Copyright © 2016 Clint J. Aegerter


As irrigation is increasingly needed for agricultural production, it is becoming progressively more important to understand not only how irrigation impacts water availability, but how the introduction of this water into the soil impacts weather and climate through land-atmosphere interactions. In the summer of 2012, the Central Plains of the United States experienced one of its most severe droughts on record. This study examines the meteorological impacts of irrigation during this drought through observations and model simulations using the Community Land Model (CLM) coupled to the Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) model. A simple parameterization of irrigation processes is added into the WRF model. In addition to keeping soil moisture in irrigated areas at a minimum of 50% of soil moisture capacity, this irrigation scheme also has the following new features: (1) accurate representation of the spatial distribution of irrigation area in the study domain by using MODIS-based 250-m resolution land surface classification; and (2) improved representation of the time series of leaf area index (LAI) values derived from crop modeling and satellite observations in both irrigated and non-irrigated areas. Several numerical sensitivity experiments are conducted. The WRF-simulated temperature field when including soil moisture and LAI modification within the model is shown to be most consistent with ground and satellite observations, all indicating a 2-3 K decrease of temperature in irrigated areas compared to the control run. Modification of leaf area index in irrigated and dryland areas led to smaller changes, with a 0.2 K temperature decrease in irrigated areas and up to a 0.5 K temperature increase in dryland areas. Furthermore, the increased soil moisture and modified leaf area index is shown to lead to increases in surface divergence, increases in surface pressure, and decreases in planetary boundary layer height over irrigated areas.

Advisor: Jun Wang