Natural Resources, School of


Date of this Version



2003 American Meteorological Society




The impact of irrigation on the surface energy budget in the U.S. high plains is investigated. Four 15-day simulations were conducted: one using a 1997 satellite-derived estimate of farmland acreage under irrigation in Nebraska (control run), two using the Olson Global Ecosystem (OGE) vegetation dataset (OGE wet run and OGE dry run), and the fourth with the Kuchler vegetation dataset (natural vegetation run) as lower boundary conditions in the Colorado State University Regional Atmospheric Modeling System (RAMS). In the control and OGE wet simulations, the topsoil in the irrigated locations, up to a depth of 0.2 m, was saturated at 0000 UTC each day for the duration of the experiment (1–15 July 1997). In the other two runs, the soil was allowed to dry out, except when replenished naturally by rainfall. Identical observed atmospheric conditions were used along the lateral boundary in all four cases.

The area-averaged model-derived quantities for the grid centered over Nebraska indicate significant differences in the surface energy fluxes between the control (irrigated) and the ‘‘dry’’ simulations. For example, a 36% increase in the surface latent heat flux and a 2.68C elevation in dewpoint temperature between the control run and the OGE dry run is shown. Surface sensible heat flux of the control run was 15% less and the near-ground temperature was 1.28C less compared to the OGE dry run. The differences between the control run and the natural vegetation run were similar but amplified compared to the control run–OGE dry run comparisons.

Results of statistical analyses of long-term(1921–2000) surface temperature data from two sites representing locations of extensive irrigated and nonirrigated land uses appear to support model results presented herein of an irrigationrelated cooling in surface temperature. Growing season monthly mean and monthly mean maximum temperature data for the irrigated site indicate a steady decreasing trend in contrast to an increasing trend at the nonirrigated site.