Natural Resources, School of


Date of this Version



Mahmood, R., Hubbard, K. G., and Christy Carlson 2004. Modification of growing-season surface temperature records in the northern Great Plains due to land-use transformation: Verification of modelling results and implication for global climate change. International Journal of Climatology, 24:311-327.



Copyright 2004 Royal Meteorological Society. Used by permission.


Land-use and land-cover change can modify near-surface atmospheric condition. Mesoscale modelling studies have shown that modification in land use affects near-surface soil moisture storage and energy balance. Such a study in the Great Plains showed that changes in land use from natural grass to irrigated agriculture enhanced soil water storage in the root zone and increased latent energy flux. This increase in latent energy flux would correspond to a decrease in sensible heat flux and, therefore, modify near-surface temperature records. To verify this deduction, we have investigated the changes in the historical near-surface temperature records in Nebraska, USA. We have analysed the long-term mean monthly maximum, minimum, and monthly mean air temperature data from five irrigated and five non-irrigated sites. The cooperative weather observation (coop) network is the source of the data. We have found that there is a clear trend in decreasing mean maximum and average temperature data for irrigated sites. For example, York, NE, reports that the mean maximum growing season temperature is decreasing at the rate −0.01 °C year−1. The results from non-irrigated sites indicated an increasing trend for the same parameters. The data from Halsey, NE, indicate a +0.01 °C year−1 increase in this century. In addition, we have conducted similar analyses of temperature data for the National Climatic Data Center’s Historical Climatic Network data set for the same locations. The results are similar to that obtained with the coop data set. Further investigation of dew-point temperature records for irrigated and non-irrigated sites also show an increasing and decreasing trend respectively. Therefore, we conclude that the land-use change in the Great Plains has modified near-surface temperature records.