Recommended Scientific Articles
Adhikary, S., Yamaguchi, Y., & Ogawa, K. (2002). Estimation of snow ablation under a dust layer covering a wide range of albedo. Hydrological Processes, 16, 2853-2865.
[Abs] Ablation processes of snow under a thin dust cover are complicated compared with those under a thick cover, mainly owing to the effects of aggregation (redistribution) of dust particles on the conditions of surface melting. Aggregation of dust particles causes the snow surface to brighten after the initial dust configuration, thus affecting the relationship between initial dust concentration and surface albedo. In order to estimate snow ablation rate under a thin dust cover, we used a composite energy balance model in which the surface albedo is taken as a measured input variable. The estimated results of snow ablation agreed reasonably well with the observation, considering the measurement errors inherited in the snow depressions. Comparison of the two cases, that is, one considering the aggregation of dust particles (observation: albedo variable) and the other without aggregation (assumption: albedo constant), showed that the ablation rates were noticeably lower on the former case. This suggests that the aggregation of dust particles induces a reduction of snow ablation.
Aron, R. H., Geiger, R., & Todhunter, P. (2009). The Climate Near the Ground (7 ed.). Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.
Asner, G. P., Elmore, A. J., Olander, L. P., Martin, R. E., & Harris, A. T. (2004). Grazing systems, ecosystem responses, and global change. Annual Review of Environment and Resources, 29, 261-299.
[Abs] Managed grazing covers more than 25% of the global land surface and has a larger geographic extent than any other form of land use. Grazing systems persist under marginal bioclimatic and edaphic conditions of different biomes, leading to the emergence of three regional syndromes inherent to global grazing: desertification, woody encroachment, and deforestation. These syndromes have widespread but differential effects on the structure, biogeochemistry, hydrology, and biosphere-atmosphere exchange of grazed ecosystems. In combination, these three syndromes represent a major component of global environmental change.
Bales, R. C., Molotch, N. P., Painter, T. H., Dettinger, M. D., Rice, R., & Dozier, J. (2006). Mountain hydrology of the western United States. Water Resources Research, 42, W08432.
[Abs] Climate change and climate variability, population growth, and land use change drive the need for new hydrologic knowledge and understanding. In the mountainous west and other similar areas worldwide, three pressing hydrologic needs stand out: first, to better understand the processes controlling the partitioning of energy and water fluxes within and out from these systems; second, to better understand feedbacks between hydrological fluxes and biogeochemical and ecological processes; third, to enhance our physical and empirical understanding with integrated measurement strategies and information systems. We envision an integrative approach to monitoring, modeling, and sensing the mountain environment that will improve understanding and prediction of hydrologic fluxes and processes. Here, extensive monitoring of energy fluxes and hydrologic states are needed to supplement existing measurements, which are largely limited to streamflow and snow water equivalent. Groundbased observing systems must be explicitly designed for integration with remotely sensed data and for scaling up to basins and whole ranges.
Barnett, T., Malone, R., Pennell, W., Stammer, D., Semtner, B., & Washington, W. (2004). The Effects of Climate Change on Water Resources in the West: Introduction and Overview. Climatic Change, 62, 1-11.
[Abs] The results of an experimental `end to end’ assessment of the effects of climate change on water resources in the western United States are described. The assessment focuses on the potential effects of climate change over the first half of the 21st century on the Columbia, Sacramento/San Joaquin, and Colorado river basins. The paper describes the methodology used for the assessment, and it summarizes the principal findings of the study. The strengths and weaknesses of this study are discussed, and suggestions are made for improving future climate change assessments.
Belnap, J., & Gillette, D. A. (1998). Disturbance of biological soil crusts: impacts on potential wind erodibility of sandy desert soils in southeastern Utah. Land Degradation & Development, 8, 355-362.
[Abs] Friction threshold velocities (FTVs) were determined for biological soil crusts in different stages of recovery. Particles on the surface of crusts that had been relatively undisturbed for at least 20 years were found to have significantly higher FTVs than those that had been disturbed 5, 10 or 1 years previously (376, 87, and 46 cm sec-1, respectively). FTV’s for crust breakage was also much higher for undisturbed crusts when compared to the previously disturbed crusts (573, 148, and 88 cm sec-1, respectively). All crusted surfaces were more stable than bare sand, which had an FTV of 16 cm sec-1. Disturbance treatments were then applied to the three crustal classes. Disturbance significantly reduced the FTVs of all classes by 73-92 per cent. Comparing crustal FTVs with mean and high monthly wind speeds found in this region, it was observed that only crusts that had been undisturbed for approximately 20 years or more were able to protect soil surfaces from wind gusts expected on the average of once a month. Other crustal classes, as well as all disturbance treatments, had FTVs lower or equal to that of commonly occurring winds in this region. Because most of the crustal biomass occurs in the top 0·3 mm of soils, even slight soil loss can negatively influence stability and nutrient inputs to this ecosystem.
Belnap, Jayne, and Otto L. Lange. Biological Soil Crusts: Structure, Function, and Management (Ecological Studies) (v. 150). 1 ed. New York: Springer, 2001.
Centeno, Jose A., Angus Cook, and Phil Weinstein. “Environmental toxicology and exposure to natural dust: The role of trace elements .” Chinese Journal of Geochemistry 25 (2006): 222-223.
Christensen, N. S., Wood, A. W., Voisin, N., Lettenmaier, D. P., & Palmer, R. N. (2004). The Effects of Climate Change on the Hydrology and Water Resources of the Colorado River Basin. Climatic Change, 62, 337-363.
[Abs] The potential effects of climate change on the hydrology and water resources of the Colorado River basin are assessed by comparing simulated hydrologic and water resources scenarios derived from downscaled climate simulations of the U.S. Department of Energy/National Center for Atmospheric Research Parallel Climate Model (PCM) to scenarios driven by observed historical (1950–1999) climate. PCM climate scenarios include an ensemble of three 105-year future climate simulations based on projected `business-as-usual’(BAU) greenhouse gas emissions and a control climate simulation based on static 1995 greenhouse gas concentrations. Downscaled transient temperature and precipitation sequences were extracted from PCM simulations, and were used to drive the Variable Infiltration Capacity (VIC) macroscale hydrology model to produce corresponding streamflow sequences. Results for the BAU scenarios were summarized into Periods 1, 2, and 3 (2010–2039,2040–2069, 2070–2098). Average annual temperature changes for the Colorado Riverbasin were 0.5 °C warmer for control climate, and 1.0, 1.7, and 2.4 °C warmer for Periods 1–3, respectively, relative to the historicalclimate. Basin-average annual precipitation for the control climate was slightly(1%) less than for observed historical climate, and 3, 6, and 3%less for future Periods 1–3, respectively. Annual runoff in the controlrun was about 10% lower than for simulated historical conditions, and 14, 18, and 17% less for Periods 1–3, respectively. Analysis of watermanagement operations using a water management model driven by simulated streamflows showed that streamflows associated with control and future BAU climates would significantly degrade the performance of the water resourcessystem relative to historical conditions, with average total basin storage reduced by 7% for the control climate and 36, 32 and 40% for Periods 1–3, respectively. Releases from Glen Canyon Dam to the LowerBasin (mandated by the Colorado River Compact) were met in 80% of years for the control climate simulation (versus 92% in the historical climate simulation), and only in 59–75% of years for the future climate runs. Annual hydropower output was also significantly reduced for the control and future climate simulations. The high sensitivity of reservoir system performance for future climate is a reflection of the fragile equilibrium that now exists in operation of the system, with system demands only slightly less than long-term mean annual inflow.
Clow, D. W. (2009). Changes in the Timing of Snowmelt and Streamflow in Colorado: A Response to Recent Warming. Journal of Climate, 23, 2293-2306.
[Abs] Trends in the timing of snowmelt and associated runoff in Colorado were evaluated for the 1978-2007 water years using the regional Kendall test (RKT) on daily snow-water equivalent (SWE) data from snowpack telemetry (SNOTEL) sites and daily streamflow data from headwater streams. The RKT is a robust, non-parametric test that provides an increased power of trend detection by grouping data from multiple sites within a given geographic region. The RKT analyses indicated strong, pervasive trends in snowmelt and streamflow timing, which have shifted toward earlier in the year by a median of 2-3 weeks over the 29-yr study period. In contrast, relatively few statistically significant trends were detected using simple linear regression. RKT analyses also indicated that November-May air temperatures increased by a median of 0.9°C decade-1, while 1 April SWE and maximum SWE declined by a median of 4.1 and 3.6 cm decade-1, respectively. Multiple linear regression models were created, using monthly air temperatures, snowfall, latitude, and elevation as exploratory variables to identify major controlling factors on snowmelt timing. The models accounted for 45% of the variance in snowmelt onset, and 78% of the variance in the snowmelt center of mass (when half the snowpack had melted away). Variations in springtime air temperature and SWE explained most of the interannual variability in snowmelt timing. Regression coefficients for air temperature were negative, indicating that warm temperatures promote early melt. Regression coefficients for SWE, latitude, and elevation were positive, indicating that abundant snowfall tends to delay snowmelt, and snowmelt tends to occur later at northern latitudes and high elevations. Results from this study indicate that even the mountains of Colorado, with their high elevations and cold snowpacks, are experiencing substantial shifts in the timing of snowmelt and snowmelt runoff toward earlier in the year.
Conway, H., Gades, A., & Raymond, C. F. (1996). Albedo of dirty snow during conditions of melt. Water Resources Research, 32, 1713-1718.
[Abs] The evolution of spectrally averaged albedo (wavelengths between 0.28 mm and 2.8 mm) of snow surfaces treated with known initial concentrations of particles of submicron-sized soot and air fall volcanic ash was investigated during conditions of natural melt. Depending on the particle type and concentration, the initial applications reduced the surface albedo to values ranging from 0.18 to 0.41 which were substantially lower than the albedo of the untreated natural snow (about 0.61). Many of the soot particles flushed through the snowpack with the meltwater, and surface concentrations of soot greater than about 5 X 10-7 kg/kg did not persist for more than a few days. The migration of particles to depth caused the snow to brighten after the initial application, thus limiting the amount of albedo reduction and the consequent effects on melting. Nevertheless, the soot remaining near the surface had a substantial, long-term effect. The residual concentration of 5 X 10-7 kg/kg persisted for several weeks and, compared to the untreated surface, reduced the albedo by about 30% and increased melting by 50%. Particles of volcanic ash with diameters larger than about 5 mm remained at or near the snow surface. Although many of the smaller particles flushed through the snow with the meltwater, the surface albedo was not changed significantly by their removal. The different behaviors of the ash and soot are probably related to the difference in their particle size distributions in relation to the thickness of water films that form the transport paths under conditions of partial saturation that are characteristic of melting snow.
Cook, E. R., Woodhouse, C. A., Eakin, C. M., Meko, D. M., & Stahle, D. W. (2004). Long-Term Aridity Changes in the Western United States. Science, 306, 1015-1018.
[Abs] The western United States is experiencing a severe multiyear drought that is unprecedented in some hydroclimatic records. Using gridded drought reconstructions that cover most of the western United States over the past 1200 years, we show that this drought pales in comparison to an earlier period of elevated aridity and epic drought in AD 900 to 1300, an interval broadly consistent with the Medieval Warm Period. If elevated aridity in the western United States is a natural response to climate warming, then any trend toward warmer temperatures in the future could lead to a serious long-term increase in aridity over western North America.
Dozier, J., Green, R. O., Nolin, A. W., & Painter, T. H. (2009). Interpretation of snow properties from imaging spectrometry. Remote Sensing of Environment, 113, S25-S37.
[Abs] Snow is among the most “colorful” materials in nature, but most of the variability in snow reflectance occurs beyond 0.8 µm rather than in the visible spectrum. In these wavelengths, reflectance decreases dramatically as the snow grains evolve and grow, whereas in the visible spectrum snow reflectance is degraded by contaminants such as dust, algae, and soot. From imaging spectrometer data, we can estimate the grain size of the snow in the surface layer, and thereby derive spectral and broadband albedo. We can also estimate the fraction of each pixel that is covered by snow, the liquid water content in the surface layer, and the amount of radiative forcing caused by absorbing impurities. Estimates of fractional snow-covered area and albedo dramatically improve the performance of spatially distributed snowmelt models that include net solar radiation as an input value, most significantly in locations and at times where incident solar radiation is high and temperatures low. Experience with imaging spectrometer data has allowed extension of the fractional snow-cover and albedo estimates to multispectral sensors, particularly MODIS, the Moderate-Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer.
Drake, J. J. (1981). The Effects of Surface Dust on Snowmelt Rates. Arctic and Alpine Research, 13, 219-223.
[Abs] A model of the effects of a dust cover on snowmelt rates, including changes in albedo and surface temperature, is shown to lead to realistic order-of-magnitude estimates of the conditions under which snowmelt will be advanced or retarded. Thick dust covers, low solar radiation and high windspeeds retard snowmelt while thin dust covers, intense solar radiation and low windspeeds increase snowmelt rates. The results agree with an earlier observation at Schefferville, Quebec, that dust covered snow near active mine sites is completely melted some four days before the general snowpack in the area, and with other empirical observations.
Fernandez, D., Neff, J., & Reynolds, R. (2008). Biogeochemical and ecological impacts of livestock grazing in semi-arid southeastern Utah, USA. Journal of Arid Environments, 72, 777-791.
[Abs] Relatively few studies have examined the ecological and biogeochemical effects of livestock grazing in southeastern Utah. In this study, we evaluated how grazing has affected soil organic carbon and nitrogen to a depth of 50 cm in grasslands located in relict and actively-grazed sites in the Canyonlands physiographic section of the Colorado Plateau. We also evaluated differences in plant ground cover and the spatial distribution of soil resources. Results show that areas used by domestic livestock have 20% less plant cover and 100% less soil organic carbon and nitrogen compared to relict sites browsed by native ungulates. In actively grazed sites, domestic livestock grazing also appears to lead to clustered, rather than random, spatial distribution of soil resources. Magnetic susceptibility, a proxy for soil stability in this region, suggests that grazing increases soil erosion leading to an increase in the area of nutrient-depleted bare ground. Overall, these results, combined with previous studies in the region, suggest that livestock grazing affects both plant cover and soil fertility with potential long-term implications for the sustainability of grazing operations in this semi-arid landscape.
Field, Jason P, Jayne Belnap, David D Breshears, Jason C Neff, Gregory S Okin, Jeffrey J Whicker, Thomas H Painter, Sujith Ravi, Marith C Reheis, and Richard L Reynolds. In press. The ecology of dust. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment. [doi:10.1890/090050]
[Abs] Wind erosion and associated dust emissions play a fundamental role in many ecological processes and provide important biogeochemical connectivity at scales from individual plants up to the entire globe. Yet, most ecological studies do not explicitly consider dust-driven processes, perhaps because most relevant research on aeolian (wind-driven) processes has been presented in a geosciences rather than an ecological context. To bridge this disciplinary gap, we provide a general overview of the ecological importance of dust, examine complex interactions between wind erosion and ecosystem dynamics from the scale of plants and surrounding space to regional and global scales, and highlight specific examples of how disturbance affects these interactions and their consequences. It is likely that changes in climate and intensification of land use will lead to increased dust production from many drylands. To address these issues, environmental scientists, land managers, and policy makers need to consider wind erosion and dust emission more explicitly in resource management decisions.
Flanner, M. G., Zender, C. S., Randerson, J. T., & Rasch, P. J. (2007). Present-day climate forcing and response from black carbon in snow. Journal of Geophysical Research, 112, D11202.
[Abs] We apply our Snow, Ice, and Aerosol Radiative (SNICAR) model, coupled to a general circulation model with prognostic carbon aerosol transport, to improve understanding of climate forcing and response from black carbon (BC) in snow. Building on two previous studies, we account for interannually varying biomass burning BC emissions, snow aging, and aerosol scavenging by snow meltwater. We assess uncertainty in forcing estimates from these factors, as well as BC optical properties and snow cover fraction. BC emissions are the largest source of uncertainty, followed by snow aging. The rate of snow aging determines snowpack effective radius (r e), which directly controls snow reflectance and the magnitude of albedo change caused by BC. For a reasonable r e range, reflectance reduction from BC varies threefold. Inefficient meltwater scavenging keeps hydrophobic impurities near the surface during melt and enhances forcing. Applying biomass burning BC emission inventories for a strong (1998) and weak (2001) boreal fire year, we estimate global annual mean BC/snow surface radiative forcing from all sources (fossil fuel, biofuel, and biomass burning) of +0.054 (0.007–0.13) and +0.049 (0.007–0.12) W m−2, respectively. Snow forcing from only fossil fuel + biofuel sources is +0.043 W m−2 (forcing from only fossil fuels is +0.033 W m−2), suggesting that the anthropogenic contribution to total forcing is at least 80%. The 1998 global land and sea-ice snowpack absorbed 0.60 and 0.23 W m−2, respectively, because of direct BC/snow forcing. The forcing is maximum coincidentally with snowmelt onset, triggering strong snow-albedo feedback in local springtime. Consequently, the “efficacy” of BC/snow forcing is more than three times greater than forcing by CO2. The 1998 and 2001 land snowmelt rates north of 50°N are 28% and 19% greater in the month preceding maximum melt of control simulations without BC in snow. With climate feedbacks, global annual mean 2-meter air temperature warms 0.15 and 0.10°C, when BC is included in snow, whereas annual arctic warming is 1.61 and 0.50°C. Stronger high-latitude climate response in 1998 than 2001 is at least partially caused by boreal fires, which account for nearly all of the 35% biomass burning contribution to 1998 arctic forcing. Efficacy was anomalously large in this experiment, however, and more research is required to elucidate the role of boreal fires, which we suggest have maximum arctic BC/snow forcing potential during April–June. Model BC concentrations in snow agree reasonably well (r = 0.78) with a set of 23 observations from various locations, spanning nearly 4 orders of magnitude. We predict concentrations in excess of 1000 ng g−1 for snow in northeast China, enough to lower snow albedo by more than 0.13. The greatest instantaneous forcing is over the Tibetan Plateau, exceeding 20 W m−2 in some places during spring. These results indicate that snow darkening is an important component of carbon aerosol climate forcing.
Goldstein, H. L., Reynolds, R. L., Reheis, M. C., Yount, J. C., & Neff, J. C. (2008). Compositional trends in aeolian dust along a transect across the southwestern United States. Journal of Geophysical Research, 113, F02S02.
[Abs] Aeolian dust strongly influences ecology and landscape geochemistry over large areas that span several desert ecosystems of the southwestern United States. This study evaluates spatial and temporal variations and trends of the physical and chemical properties of dust in the southwestern United States by examining dust deposited in natural depressions on high isolated surfaces along a transect from the Mojave Desert to the central Colorado Plateau. Aeolian dust is recognized in these depressions on the basis of textural, chemical, isotopic, and mineralogical characteristics and comparisons of those characteristics to the underlying bedrock units. Spatial and temporal trends suggest that although local dust sources are important to the accumulated material in these depressions, Mojave Desert dust sources may also contribute. Depth trends in the depressions suggest that Mojave sources may have contributed more dust to the Colorado Plateau recently than in the past. These interpretations point to the important roles of far-traveled aeolian dust for landscape geochemistry and imply future changes to soil geochemistry under changing conditions in far-distant dust source areas.
Goossens, Dirk, and Brenda Buck. “Dust emission by off-road driving: Experiments on 17 arid soil types, Nevada, USA.” Geomorphology 107 (2009): 118-138.
[Abs] Field experiments were conducted in Nellis Dunes Recreational Area (Clark County, Nevada, USA) to investigate emission of dust produced by off-road driving. Experiments were carried out with three types of vehicles: 4-wheelers (quads), dirt bikes (motorcycles) and dune buggies, on 17 soil types characteristic for a desert environment. Tests were done at various driving speeds, and emissions were measured for a large number of grain size fractions. This paper reports the results for two size fractions of emissions: PM10 (particles < 10 μm) and PM60 (particles < 60 μm). The latter was considered in this study to be sufficiently representative of the total suspendable fraction (TSP). Off-road driving was found to be a significant source of dust. However, the amounts varied greatly with the type of soil and the characteristics of the top layer. Models predicting emission of dust by off-road driving should thus consider a number of soil parameters and not just one key parameter. Vehicle type and driving speed are additional parameters that affect emission. In general, 4-wheelers produce more dust than dune buggies, and dune buggies, more than dirt bikes. Higher speeds also result in higher emissions. Dust emitted by off-road driving is less coarse than the parent sediment on the road surface. Off-road driving thus results in a progressive coarsening of the top layer. Exceptions to this are silty surfaces with no, or almost no, vegetation. For such surfaces no substantial differences were observed between the grain size distribution of road dust and emitted dust. Typical emission values for off-road driving on dry desert soils are: for sandy areas, 30–40 g km− 1 (PM10) and 150–250 g km− 1 (TSP); for silty areas, 100–200 g km− 1 (PM10) and 600–2000 g km− 1 (TSP); for drainages, 30–40 g km− 1 (PM10) and 100–400 g km− 1 (TSP); and for mixed terrain, 60–100 g km− 1 (PM10) and 300–800 g km− 1 (TSP). These values are for the types of vehicles tested in this study and do not refer to cars or trucks, which produce significantly more dust.
Gottfried, Gerald J.; Gebow, Brooke S.; Eskew, Lane G.; Edminster, Carleton B. 2005. Connecting mountain islands and desert seas: Biodiversity and management of the Madrean Archipelago II. Proceedings RMRS-P-36. Fort Collins, CO: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station. 631 p.
[Abs] The Madrean Archipelago, or Sky Island, region of the southwestern United States and northern Mexico is recognized for its great biological diversity and natural beauty. This conference brought together scientists, managers, and other interested parties to share their knowledge about the region and to identify needs and possible solutions for existing and emerging problems. It provided a forum to update the state-of-knowledge acquired since the first conference in 1994. The proceedings contains over 100 articles and additional abstracts from the plenary sessions and from concurrent sessions covering biogeography, ecosystem monitoring, science-based management, cultural resources/history, invasive species, hydrology and biodiversity, conservation planning, ecology, fire, conservation practice, and global climatic change. Abstracts in Spanish are included. The summary of an open forum at the end of the conference provides additional thoughts about current and future needs for the Madrean Archipelago.
Gribbin, J. (1983). Future Weather: Carbon Dioxide, Climate and the Greenhouse Effect (Pelican). London: Penguin Books Ltd.
Griffin, D. W., & Kellogg, C. A. (2004). Dust Storms and Their Impact on Ocean and Human Health: Dust in Earth’s Atmosphere. EcoHealth, 1, 284-295.
[Abs] Satellite imagery has greatly influenced our understanding of dust activity on a global scale. A number of different satellites such as NASAs Earth-Probe Total Ozone Mapping Spectrometer (TOMS) and Sea-viewing Field-of-view Sensor (SeaWiFS) acquire daily global-scale data used to produce imagery for monitoring dust storm formation and movement. This global-scale imagery has documented the frequent transmission of dust storm-derived soils through Earths atmosphere and the magnitude of many of these events. While various research projects have been undertaken to understand this normal planetary process, little has been done to address its impact on ocean and human health. This review will address the ability of dust storms to influence marine microbial population densities and transport of soil-associated toxins and pathogenic microorganisms to marine environments. The implications of dust on ocean and human health in this emerging scientific field will be discussed.
Griffin, D. W., Kellogg, C. A., & Shinn, E. A. (2001). Dust in the Wind: Long Range Transport of Dust in the Atmosphere and Its Implications for Global Public and Ecosystem Health. Global Change & Human Health, 2, 20-33.
[Abs] Movement of soil particles in atmospheres is a normal planetary process. Images of Martian dust devils (wind-spouts) and dust storms captured by NASA’s Pathfinder have demonstrated the significant role that storm activity plays in creating the red atmospheric haze of Mars. On Earth, desert soils moving in the atmosphere are responsible for the orange hues in brilliant sunrises and sunsets. In severe dust storm events, millions of tons of soil may be moved across great expanses of land and ocean. An emerging scientific interest in the process of soil transport in the Earth’s atmosphere is in the field of public and ecosystem health. This article will address the benefits and the potential hazards associated with exposure to particle fallout as clouds of desert dust traverse the globe.
Griffin, D. W. (2007). Atmospheric Movement of Microorganisms in Clouds of Desert Dust and Implications for Human Health. Clinical Microbiology Reviews, 20, 459-477.
[Abs] Billions of tons of desert dust move through the atmosphere each year. The primary source regions, which include the Sahara and Sahel regions of North Africa and the Gobi and Takla Makan regions of Asia, are capable of dispersing significant quantities of desert dust across the traditionally viewed oceanic barriers. While a considerable amount of research by scientists has addressed atmospheric pathways and aerosol chemistry, very few studies to determine the numbers and types of microorganisms transported within these desert dust clouds and the roles that they may play in human health have been conducted. This review is a summary of the current state of knowledge of desert dust microbiology and the health impact that desert dust and its microbial constituents may have in downwind environments both close to and far from their sources.
Harper, K. T., 1981: Potential Ecological Impacts of Snow Pack Augmentation in the Uinta Mountains, Utah, Brigham Young University, Final Report to the Water and Power Resources Service.
Harper, M. P., & Peckarsky, B. L. (2006). Emergence cues of a mayfly in a high-altitude stream ecosystem: potential response to climate change. Ecological Applications, 16, 612-621.
[Abs] To understand the consequences of human accelerated environmental change, it is important to document the effects on natural populations of an increasing frequency of extreme climatic events. In stream ecosystems, recent climate change has resulted in extreme variation in both thermal and hydrological regimes. From 2001 to 2004, a severe drought in western United States corresponded with earlier emergence of the adult stage of the high-altitude stream mayfly, Baetis bicaudatus. Using a long-term database from a western Colorado stream, the peak emergence date of this mayfly population was predicted by both the magnitude and date of peak stream flow, and by the mean daily water temperature, suggesting that Baetis may respond to declining stream flow or increasing water temperature as proximate cues for early metamorphosis. However, in a one-year survey of multiple streams from the same drainage basin, only water temperature predicted spatial variation in the onset of emergence of this mayfly. To decouple the effects of temperature and flow, we separately manipulated these factors in flow-through microcosms and measured the timing of B. bicaudatus metamorphosis to the adult stage. Mayflies emerged sooner in a warmed-water treatment than an ambient-water treatment; but reducing flow did not accelerate the onset of mayfly emergence. Nonetheless, using warming temperatures to cue metamorphosis enables mayflies to time their emergence during the descending limb of the hydrograph when oviposition sites (protruding rocks) are becoming available. We speculate that large-scale climate changes involving warming and stream drying could cause significant shifts in the timing of mayfly metamorphosis, thereby having negative effects on populations that play an important role in stream ecosystems.
Howell, Wallace E., 1977: Environmental Impacts of Precipitation Management: Results and Inferences from Project Skywater. Bull. Amer. Meteor. Soc., 58, 488-501
[Abs] Recent completion of several research projects into weather modification impacts on the environment provides an opportunity for placing this subject in a new perspective. Studies of physical and biological processes relating precipitation and ecosystem changes show relatively few discernible effects, all of them minor in nature and magnitude. Direct effects of nucleating agents no longer appear consequential Since no acute problems have surfaced, the focus is likely to shift to possible long-term effects on ecosystems as a whole, where changes associated with natural precipitation gradients and climatic fluctuations provide a model for those to be expected from precipitation management. The weakness of environmental impacts of weather modification compared to the consequences of other human actions renders it unlikely that these impacts will be decisive within a behavioral framework.
Jonas, T., Rixen, C., Sturm, M., & Stoeckli, V. (2008). How alpine plant growth is linked to snow cover and climate variability. Journal of Geophysical Research, 113, G03013.
[Abs] Recent climate models predict future changes in temperature and precipitation in the Alps. To assess the potential response of alpine plant communities to climate change, we analyzed specific and combined effects of temperature, precipitation, and snow season timing on the growth of plants. This analysis is based on data from 17 snow meteorological stations and includes plant growth records from the same sites over 10 years. Using multiple regression and path analysis, we found that plant growth was primarily driven by climatic factors controlled by the timing of the snow season. Air temperature and precipitation before snow-up and after melt-out yielded the greatest direct impact on maximum plant height as well as growth rates. The variability of environmental drivers between sites versus between years had different effects on plant growth: e.g., sites with early melt-out dates hosted plant communities with tall, slow-growing vegetation. But interannual variations in melt-out dates at a given site did not produce measurable differences in plant growth performance. However, high temperatures after melt-out invariably resulted in a shortened growth period. We speculate that the plant growth patterns we observed in response to climate variation between sites are indicative of the long-term responses of alpine plant communities to persistent climate changes. With most climate models indicating shorter winters, we thus expect alpine grasslands in the Alps to display an enhanced biomass production in the future.
Krinner, G., Boucher, O., & Balkanski, Y. (2006). Ice-free glacial northern Asia due to dust deposition on snow. Climate Dynamics, 27, 613-625.
[Abs] During the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM, 21 kyr BP), no large ice sheets were present in northern Asia, while northern Europe and North America (except Alaska) were heavily glaciated. We use a general circulation model with high regional resolution and a new parameterization of snow albedo to show that the ice-free conditions in northern Asia during the LGM are favoured by strong glacial dust deposition on the seasonal snow cover. Our climate model simulations indicate that mineral dust deposition on the snow surface leads to low snow albedo during the melt season. This, in turn, caused enhanced snow melt and therefore favoured snow-free peak summer conditions over almost the entire Asian continent during the LGM, whereas perennial snow cover is simulated over a large part of eastern Siberia when glacial dust deposition is not taken into account.
Kudo, G., & Hirao, A. S. (2006). Habitat-specific responses in the flowering phenology and seed set of alpine plants to climate variation: implications for global-change impacts. Population Ecology, 48, 49-58.
[Abs] The timing of the snowmelt is a crucial factor in determining the phenological schedule of alpine plants. A long-term monitoring of snowmelt regimes in a Japanese alpine area revealed that the onset of the snowmelt season has been accelerated during the last 17 years in early snowmelt sites but that such a trend has not been detected in late snowmelt sites. This indicates that the global warming effect on the snowmelt pattern may be site-specific. The flowering phenology of fellfield plants in an exposed wind-blown habitat was consistent between an unusually warm year (1998) and a normal year (2001). In contrast, the flowering occurrence of snowbed plants varied greatly between the years depending on the snowmelt time. There was a large number of flowering species in the fellfield community from mid- to late to late June and from mid- to late July. The flowering peak of an early-melt snowbed plant community was in the middle of the flowering season and that of a late-melt snowbed community was in the early flowering season. These habitat-specific phenological patterns were consistent between 1998 and 2001. The effects of the variation in flowering timing on seed-set success were evaluated for an entomophilous snowbed herb, Peucedanum multivittatum, along the snowmelt gradient during a 5-year period. When flowering occurred prior to early August, mean temperature during the flowering season positively influenced the seed set. When flowering occurred later than early August, however, the plants enjoyed high seed-set success irrespective of temperature conditions if frost damage was absent. These observations are probably explained based on the availability of pollinators, which depends not only on ambient temperature but also on seasonal progress. These results suggest that the effects of climate change on biological interaction may vary depending on the specific habitat in the alpine ecosystem in which diverse snowmelt patterns create complicated seasonality for plants within a very localized area.
Lawrence, C. R., & Neff, J. C. (2009). The contemporary physical and chemical flux of aeolian dust: A synthesis of direct measurements of dust deposition. Chemical Geology, 267, 46-63.
[Abs] The deposition of aeolian, or windblown, dust is widely recognized as an important physical and chemical flux to ecosystems. Dust deposition adds exogenous mineral and organic material to terrestrial surfaces and can be important for the biogeochemical cycling of nutrients. There have been many studies that characterize the physical and chemical composition of dust. However, few studies have synthesized these observations in order to examine patterns geochemical fluxes. We have compiled observations of dust deposition rates, particle size distributions (PSD), mineralogy and bulk elemental and organic chemistry.
The rates of dust deposition observed across the globe vary from almost 0 to greater than 450 g m− 2 yr− 1. Sites receiving dust deposition can be partitioned into broad categories based on there distance from dust source regions. When compared to global dust models our results suggest some models may underestimate dust deposition rates at the regional and local scales. The distance from the source region that dust is deposited also influences the particle size distributions, mineralogy, and chemical composition of dust; however, more consistent dust sampling and geochemical analyses are needed to better constrain these spatial patterns. On average, the concentrations of most major elements (Si, Al, Fe, Mg, Ca, K) in aeolian dust tend to be similar (± 20%) to the composition of the upper continental crust (UCC), but there is substantial variability from sample to sample. In contrast, some elements tend to be depleted (Na) or enriched (Ti) in dust, likely as a result of soil weathering processes prior to dust emissions. Trace elements, especially heavy metals, are consistently enriched in dust relative to the UCC. Ecologically important nutrients, such as N and P, are also present in dust deposition. The geochemical flux attributable to dust deposition can be substantial in ecosystems located proximal to dust source regions. We calculate estimates of elemental flux rates based on the average chemical composition of aeolian dust and varying rates of deposition. These estimated flux rates are useful as a rough gauge of the degree to which dust deposition may influence biogeochemical cycling in terrestrial ecosystems and should be utilized to better constrain deposition estimates of global dust models.
Lawrence, C. R., Painter, T. H., Landry, C. C., & Neff, J. C. (2010). Contemporary geochemical composition and flux of aeolian dust to the San Juan Mountains, Colorado, United States. Journal of Geophysical Research, 115, G03007.
[Abs] Dust deposition in the Rocky Mountains may be an important biogeochemical flux from upwind ecosystems. Seasonal (winter/spring) dust mass fluxes to the San Juan Mountains during the period from 2004 to 2008 ranged from 5 to 10 g m−2, with individual deposition events reaching as high as 2 g m−2. Dust deposited in the San Juan Mountains was primarily composed of silt- and clay-sized particles, indicating a regional source area. The concentrations of most major and minor elements in this dust were similar to or less than average upper continental crustal concentrations, whereas trace element concentrations were often enriched. In particular, dust collected from the San Juan Mountain snowpack was characterized by enrichments of heavy metals including As, Cu, Cd, Mo, Pb, and Zn. The mineral composition of dust partially explained dust geochemistry; however, based on results of a sequential leaching procedure it appeared that trace element enrichments were associated with the organic-, and not the mineral-, fraction of dust. Our observations show that the dust-derived fluxes of several nutrients and trace metals are substantial and, because many elements are deposited in a mobile form, could be important controls of vegetation, soil, or surface water chemistry. The flux measurements reported here are useful benchmarks for the characterization of ecosystem biogeochemical cycling in the Rocky Mountains.
Mahowald, N. M., & Luo, C. (2003). A less dusty future? Geophysical Research Letters, 30, 1903.
[Abs] Atmospheric desert dust is potentially highly sensitive to changes in climate, carbon dioxide and human land use. In this study we use 6 different scenarios of the processes responsible for changes in source areas and explore changes in desert dust loading in pre-industrial and future climates, although all the scenario results are likely to be sensitive to the climate model simulations used for this study. Simulations suggest that future dust may be 20 to 60% lower than current dust loadings. The anthropogenic portion of the current dust loading may be as large as 60%, or humans may have caused a 24% decrease in desert dust, depending on the relative importance of land use, carbon dioxide and human induced climate change. These results suggest there may be a high sensitivity of ‘natural aerosols’ to human intervention, which has enormous implications for climate and biogeochemistry in the future.
Mahowald, N. M., Rivera, G. D., & Luo, C. (2004). Comment on “Relative importance of climate and land use in determining present and future global soil dust emission.” Geophysical Research Letters, 31, L24105.
[Abs] The current consensus is that up to half of the modern atmospheric dust load originates from anthropogenically-disturbed soils. Here, we estimate the contribution to the atmospheric dust load from agricultural areas by calibrating a dust-source model with emission indices derived from dust-storm observations. Our results indicate that dust from agricultural areas contributes <10% to the global dust load. Analyses of future changes in dust emissions under several climate and land-use scenarios suggest dust emissions may increase or decrease, but either way the effects of climate change will dominate dust emissions.
McConnell, J. R., Aristarain, A. J., Banta, J. R., Edwards, P. R., & Simões, J. C. (2007). 20th-Century doubling in dust archived in an Antarctic Peninsula ice core parallels climate change and desertification in South America. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 104, 5743-5748.
[Abs] Crustal dust in the atmosphere impacts Earth’s radiative forcing directly by modifying the radiation budget and affecting cloud nucleation and optical properties, and indirectly through ocean fertilization, which alters carbon sequestration. Increased dust in the atmosphere has been linked to decreased global air temperature in past ice core studies of glacial to interglacial transitions. We present a continuous ice core record of aluminum deposition during recent centuries in the northern Antarctic Peninsula, the most rapidly warming region of the Southern Hemisphere; such a record has not been reported previously. This record shows that aluminosilicate dust deposition more than doubled during the 20th century, coincident with the ≈1°C Southern Hemisphere warming: a pattern in parallel with increasing air temperatures, decreasing relative humidity, and widespread desertification in Patagonia and northern Argentina. These results have far-reaching implications for understanding the forces driving dust generation and impacts of changing dust levels on climate both in the recent past and future.
Melloh, R. A., Hardy, J. P., Davis, R. E., & Robinson, P. B. (2002). Spectral albedo/reflectance of littered forest snow during the melt season. Hydrological Processes, 15, 3409-3422.
[Abs] Despite the importance of litter on forest floor albedo and brightness, previous studies have not documented forest floor albedo or litter cover in any detail. Our objective was to describe the seasonal influence of litter on spectral albedos and nadir reflectances of a forest snowpack in a mixed-hardwood stand in the Sleepers River Research Watershed (SRRW) in Danville, Vermont (37°39′ N, 1192′ W). Experimental measurements in a nearby open area at the Snow Research Station of the SRRW nearly duplicated the spectral trend observed in the forest. Spectral albedo and nadir reflectance measurements in the visible and near infrared (350-2500 nm) transitioned from a gently curved shape through the visible range (for finer-grained, lightly littered snow) to one having a peak in the red/near-infrared (near 760 nm) as the snowmelt season progressed (for coarser-grained, more heavily littered snow). The snowpack became optically thin as surface litter reached high percentages. A point-in-time digital photographic survey of the late-lying snowpacks of three forest stands and the open showed that median litter cover percentages in the coniferous, deciduous, mixed-forest, and an open area were 17.5, 6.1, 1.2, and 0.04 respectively. A Kruskal-Wallis ANOVA on ranks and pairwise comparisons using Dunn’s test indicated that the litter covers of the three forest stands were significantly different with >95% confidence. The snowpack was relatively shallow (<1 m), as is typical for this area of Vermont. From a remote-sensing standpoint, and since shallow snow and increased grain size also lower the visible albedo, we can expect that snowpack litter will cause decreased albedo earlier in the snowmelt season, at deeper snow depths, and will tend to shift the maximum albedo peak to the red/NIR range as the melt season progresses.
Mote, P. W., Hamlet, A. F., Clark, M. P., & Lettenmaier, D. P. (2005). Declining mountain snowpack in western North America. Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, 86, 39-49.
[Abs] In western North America, snow provides crucial storage of winter precipitation, effectively transferring water from the relatively wet winter season to the typically dry summers. Manual and telemetered measurements of spring snow-pack, corroborated by a physically based hydrologic model, are examined here for climate-driven fluctuations and trends during the period of 1916-2002. Much of the mountain West has experienced declines in spring snowpack, especially since midcentury, despite increases in winter precipitation in many places. Analysis and modeling show that climatic trends are the dominant factor, not changes in land use, forest canopy, or other factors. The largest decreases have occurred where winter temperatures are mild, especially in the Cascade Mountains and northern California. In most mountain ranges, relative declines grow from minimal at ridgetop to substantial at snow line. Taken together, these results emphasize that the West’s snow resources are already declining as earth’s climate warms.
Muhs, D. R., & Benedict, J. B. (2006). Eolian Additions to Late Quaternary Alpine Soils, Indian Peaks Wilderness Area, Colorado Front Range. Arctic, Antarctic, and Alpine Research, 38, 120-130.
[Abs] Surface horizons of many alpine soils on Quaternary deposits in high-mountain settings are enriched in silt. The origin of these particles has been debated, particularly in the Rocky Mountain region of North America. The most common explanations are frost shattering of coarser particles and eolian additions from distant sources. We studied alpine soil A horizons on moraines of late-glacial age (about 11,000 to 10,000 radiocarbon years old) in the Colorado Front Range. Surface horizons of soils on these moraines are enriched in silt and have a particle size distribution that resembles loess and dust deposits found elsewhere. The compositions of sand and silt fractions in the soils were compared to possible local source rocks, using immobile trace elements Ti, Nb, Zr, Ce, and Y. The sand fractions of soils have a wide range of trace element ratios, similar to the range of values in the local biotite gneiss bedrock. In contrast, silt fractions have narrower ranges of trace element ratios that do not overlap the range of these ratios in biotite gneiss. The particle size and geochemical results support an interpretation that silts in these soils were derived from airborne dust. Based on similar geochemistry, eolian silts were most likely derived from distant sources, such as the semiarid North Park and Middle Park basins to the west. Although eolian silt additions may be an ongoing process, we hypothesize that much of the eolian influx to soils of the Front Range occurred during an early-to-mid-Holocene warm and dry period, when sediment availability in semiarid source basins was at a maximum.
Neff, J. C., Reynolds, R. L., Belnap, J., & Lamothe, P. (2005). Multi-decadal impacts of grazing on soil physical and biogeochemical properties in southeast Utah. Ecological Applications, 15, 87-95.
[Abs] Many soils in southeastern Utah are protected from surface disturbance by biological soil crusts that stabilize soils and reduce erosion by wind and water. When these crusts are disturbed by land use, soils become susceptible to erosion. In this study, we compare a never-grazed grassland in Canyonlands National Park with two historically grazed sites with similar geologic, geomorphic, and geochemical characteristics that were grazed from the late 1800s until 1974. We show that, despite almost 30 years without livestock grazing, surface soils in the historically grazed sites have 38–43% less silt, as well as 14– 51% less total elemental soil Mg, Na, P, and Mn content relative to soils never exposed to livestock disturbances. Using magnetic measurement of soil magnetite content (a proxy for the stabilization of far-traveled eolian dust) we suggest that the differences in Mg, Na, P, and Mn are related to wind erosion of soil fine particles after the historical disturbance by livestock grazing. Historical grazing may also lead to changes in soil organic matter content including declines of 60–70% in surface soil C and N relative to the never-grazed sites. Collectively, the differences in soil C and N content and the evidence for substantial rock-derived nutrient loss to wind erosion implies that livestock grazing could have long-lasting effects on the soil fertility of native grasslands in this part of southeastern Utah. This study suggests that nutrient loss due to wind erosion of soils should be a consideration for management decisions related to the long-term sustainability of grazing operations in arid environments.
Neff, J. C., Ballantyne, A. P., Farmer, G. L., Mahowald, N. M., Conroy, J. L., Landry, C. C., et al. (2008). Increasing eolian dust deposition in the western United States linked to human activity. Nature Geoscience, 1, 189-195.
[Abs] Mineral aerosols from dust are an important influence on climate and on marine and terrestrial biogeochemical cycles. These aerosols are generated from wind erosion of surface soils. The amount of dust emission can therefore be affected by human activities that alter surface sediments. However, changes in regional- and global-scale dust fluxes following the rapid expansion of human populations and settlements over the past two centuries are not well understood. Here we determine the accumulation rates and geochemical properties of alpine lake sediments from the western interior United States for the past 5,000 years. We find that dust load levels increased by 500% above the late Holocene average following the increased western settlement of the United States during the nineteenth century. We suggest that the increased dust deposition is caused by the expansion of livestock grazing in the early twentieth century. The larger dust flux, which persists into the early twenty-first century, results in a more than fivefold increase in inputs of K, Mg, Ca, N and P to the alpine ecosystems, with implications for surface-water alkalinity, aquatic productivity and terrestrial nutrient cycling.
Orgill, M., & Sehmel, G. (1976). Frequency and diurnal variation of dust storms in the contiguous U.S.A. Atmospheric Environment, 10, 813-825.
[Abs] Studies of regional wind erosion and the translocation of suspended particles are important for accurate surveys of air pollution. This category of investigation has nationwide implications for planning and regulatory purposes. However, most regional studies of wind suspension (airborne dust) have centered around the Great Plains without much consideration given to other areas of the country.
The purpose of this study is to quantitate the wind translocation problem throughout the contiguous United States by using visibility as an index. National Weather Service and military surface observations on dust were analyzed for annual, monthly and diurnal periods. Frequency of dusty periods were based on hourly weather observations from stations recording dust, blowing dust, and blowing sand when visibility was 7 miles or less.
Mountainous, forested, and predominantly maritime regions are generally free from major dust storms. The highest dust frequency is in the Southern Great Plains. Secondary dust frequency maxima occur in the Western States, Northern Great Plains, southern coastal Pacific and inland valleys and the Southeast.
Maximum dust frequency occurs in early and late spring months for most regions but some regions experience additional dust in summer or fall. Hourly observations show higher dust frequencies occur in the afternoon between 12.00 and 20.00 LST, or during the period of maximum thermal instability.
Regional dust frequency patterns are discussed in relation to the principal factors which govern natural wind-caused suspension, i.e. (1) surface properties, (2) particle properties, and (3) meteorological conditions.
Painter, T. H., Barrett, A. P., Landry, C. C., Neff, J. C., Cassidy, M. P., Lawrence, C. R., et al. (2007). Impact of disturbed desert soils on duration of mountain snow cover. Geophysical Research Letters, 34, L12502.
[Abs] Snow cover duration in a seasonally snow covered mountain range (San Juan Mountains, USA) was found to be shortened by 18 to 35 days during ablation through surface shortwave radiative forcing by deposition of disturbed desert dust. Frequency of dust deposition and radiative forcing doubled when the Colorado Plateau, the dust source region, experienced intense drought (8 events and 39–59 Watts per square meter in 2006) versus a year with near normal precipitation (4 events and 17–34 Watts per square meter in 2005). It is likely that the current duration of snow cover and surface radiation budget represent a dramatic change from those before the widespread soil disturbance of the western US in the late 1800s that resulted in enhanced dust emission. Moreover, the projected increases in drought intensity and frequency and associated increases in dust emission from the desert southwest US may further reduce snow cover duration.
Reynolds, R., Belnap, J., Reheis, M., Lamothe, P., & Luiszer, F. (2001). Aeolian dust in Colorado Plateau soils: Nutrient inputs and recent change in source. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 98, 7123-7127.
[Abs] Aeolian dust (windblown silt and clay) is an important component in arid-land ecosystems because it may contribute to soil formation and furnish essential nutrients. Few geologic surfaces, however, have been characterized with respect to dust-accumulation history and resultant nutrient enrichment. We have developed a combination of methods to identify the presence of aeolian dust in arid regions and to evaluate the roles of this dust in ecosystem processes. Unconsolidated sandy sediment on isolated surfaces in the Canyonlands region of the Colorado Plateau differs greatly in mineralogical and chemical composition from associated bedrock, mainly aeolian sandstone. Detrital magnetite in the surficial deposits produces moderately high values of magnetic susceptibility, but magnetite is absent in nearby bedrock. A component of the surficial deposits must be aeolian to account for the abundance of magnetite, which formed originally in far-distant igneous rocks. Particle-size analysis suggests that the aeolian dust component is typically as much as 20–30%. Dust inputs have enriched the sediments in many elements, including P, Mg, Na, K, and Mo, as well as Ca, at sites where bedrock lacks calcite cement. Soil-surface biologic crusts are effective dust traps that apparently record a change in dust sources over the past several decades. Some of the recently fallen dust may result from human disturbance of land surfaces that are far from the Canyonlands, such as the Mojave Desert. Some land-use practices in the study area have the potential to deplete soil fertility by means of wind-erosion removal of aeolian silt.
Reynolds, Richard L., James C. Yount, Marith Reheis, Harland Goldstein, Pat Chavez Jr, Robert Fulton, John Whitney, Christopher Fuller, and Richard M. Forester. “Dust emission from wet and dry playas in the Mojave Desert, USA.” Earth Surface Processes and Landforms 32 (2007): 1811-1827.
[Abs] The interactions between playa hydrology and playa-surface sediments are important factors that control the type and amount of dust emitted from playas as a result of wind erosion. The production of evaporite minerals during evaporative loss of near-surface ground water results in both the creation and maintenance of several centimeters or more of loose sediment on and near the surfaces of wet playas. Observations that characterize the texture, mineralogic composition and hardness of playa – surfaces at Franklin Lake, Soda Lake and West Cronese Lake playas in the Mojave Desert (California), along with imaging of dust emission using automated digital photography, indicate that these kinds of surface sediment are highly susceptible to dust emission. The surfaces of wet playas are dynamic surface texture and sediment availability to wind erosion change rapidly, primarily in response to fluctuations in water-table depth, rainfall and rates of evaporation. In contrast, dry playas are characterized by ground water at depth. Consequently, dry playas commonly have hard surfaces that produce little or no dust if undisturbed except for transient silt and clay deposited on surfaces by wind and water. Although not the dominant type of global dust, salt-rich dusts from wet playas may be important with respect to radiative properties of dust plumes, atmospheric chemistry, windborne nutrients and human health.
Rood, S. B., Pan, J., Gill, K. M., Franks, C. G., Samuelson, G. M., & Shepherd, A. (2008). Declining summer flows of Rocky Mountain rivers: Changing seasonal hydrology and probable impacts on floodplain forests. Journal of Hydrology, 349, 397-410.
[Abs] In analyzing hydrologic consequences of climate change, we previously found declining annual discharges of rivers that drain the hydrographic apex of North America, the Rocky Mountain headwaters region for adjacent streams flowing to the Arctic, Atlantic and Pacific oceans. In this study we investigated historic changes in seasonal patterns of streamflows, by comparing mean monthly flows and analyzing cumulative hydrographs over the periods of record of about a century. We tested predictions of change due to winter and spring warming that would increase the proportion of rain versus snow, and alter snow accumulation and melt. We analyzed records from 14 free-flowing, snow-melt dominated rivers that drained relatively pristine parks and protected areas, thus avoiding the effects of river damming, flow regulation, or watershed development. The collective results indicated that: (1) winter flows (especially March) were often slightly increased, (2) spring run-off and (3) peak flows occurred earlier, and most substantially, (4) summer and early autumn flows (July–October) were considerably reduced. The greatest changes were observed for the rivers draining the east-slope of the Rocky Mountains toward the northern prairies and Hudson Bay, with late summer flow decline rates of about 0.2%/year. This would have considerable ecological impact since this is the warm and dry period when evaporative demand is maximal and reduced instream flows would reduce riparian groundwater recharge, imposing drought stress on floodplain forests. In combination with the decline in annual discharge, earlier peaks and reduced summer flows would provide chronic stress on riparian cottonwoods and willows and especially restrict seedling recruitment. We predict a loss of floodplain forests along some river reaches, the narrowing of forest bands along other reaches, and increased vulnerability of these ecosystems to other impacts including livestock grazing, encroachment of upland vegetation, and weed invasion.
Schwinning, S., Belnap, J., Bowling, D. R., & Ehleringer, J. R. (2008). Sensitivity of the Colorado plateau to change: climate, ecosystems, and society. Ecology and Society, 13. Retrieved June 28, 2010, from http://content.lib.utah.edu/u?/ir-main,31128
[Abs] The Colorado Plateau is located in the interior, dry end of two moisture trajectories coming from opposite directions, which have made this region a target for unusual climate fluctuations. A multi-decadal drought event some 850 years ago may have eliminated maize cultivation by the first human settlers of the Colorado Plateau, the Fremont and Anasazi people, and contributed to the abandonment of their settlements. Even today, ranching and farming are vulnerable to drought and struggle to persist. The recent use of the Colorado Plateau primarily as rangeland has made this region less tolerant to drought due to unprecedented levels of surface disturbances that destroy biological crusts, reduce soil carbon and nitrogen stocks, and increase rates of soil erosion. The most recent drought of 2002 demonstrated the vulnerability of the Colorado Plateau in its currently depleted state and the associated costs to the local economies. New climate predictions for the southwestern United States include the possibility of a long-term shift to warmer, more arid conditions, punctuated by megadroughts not seen since medieval times. It remains to be seen whether the present-day extractive industries, aided by external subsidies, can persist in a climate regime that apparently exceeded the adaptive capacities of the Colorado Plateau’s prehistoric agriculturalists.
Spracklen, D. V., Mickley, L. J., Logan, J. A., Hudman, R. C., Yevich, R., Flannigan, M. D., et al. (2009). Impacts of climate change from 2000 to 2050 on wildfire activity and carbonaceous aerosol concentrations in the western United States. Journal of Geophysical Research, 114, D20301.
[Abs] We investigate the impact of climate change on wildfire activity and carbonaceous aerosol concentrations in the western United States. We regress observed area burned onto observed meteorological fields and fire indices from the Canadian Fire Weather Index system and find that May-October mean temperature and fuel moisture explain 24-57% of the variance in annual area burned in this region. Applying meteorological fields calculated by a general circulation model (GCM) to our regression model, we show that increases in temperature cause annual mean area burned in the western United States to increase by 54% by the 2050s relative to the present-day. Changes in area burned are ecosystem dependent, with the forests of the Pacific Northwest and Rocky Mountains experiencing the greatest increases of 78% and 175% respectively. Increased area burned results in near doubling of wildfire carbonaceous aerosol emissions by mid-century. Using a chemical transport model driven by meteorology from the same GCM, we calculate that climate change will increase summertime organic carbon (OC) aerosol concentrations over the western United States by 40% and elemental carbon (EC) concentrations by 20% from 2000 to 2050. Most of this increase (75% for OC, 95% for EC) is caused by larger wildfire emissions with the rest caused by changes in meteorology and for OC by increased monoterpene emissions in a warmer climate. Such an increase in carbonaceous aerosol would have important consequences for western U.S. air quality and visibility.
Steltzer, H., Landry, C., Painter, T. H., Anderson, J., & Ayres, E. (2009). Biological consequences of earlier snowmelt from desert dust deposition in alpine landscapes. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 106, 11629-11634.
[Abs] Dust deposition to mountain snow cover, which has increased since the late 19th century, accelerates the rate of snowmelt by increasing the solar radiation absorbed by the snowpack. Snowmelt occurs earlier, but is decoupled from seasonal warming. Climate warming advances the timing of snowmelt and early season phenological events (e.g., the onset of greening and flowering); however, earlier snowmelt without warmer temperatures may have a different effect on phenology. Here, we report the results of a set of snowmelt manipulations in which radiation-absorbing fabric and the addition and removal of dust from the surface of the snowpack advanced or delayed snowmelt in the alpine tundra. These changes in the timing of snowmelt were superimposed on a system where the timing of snowmelt varies with topography and has been affected by increased dust loading. At the community level, phenology exhibited a threshold response to the timing of snowmelt. Greening and flowering were delayed before seasonal warming, after which there was a linear relationship between the date of snowmelt and the timing of phenological events. Consequently, the effects of earlier snowmelt on phenology differed in relation to topography, which resulted in increasing synchronicity in phenology across the alpine landscape with increasingly earlier snowmelt. The consequences of earlier snowmelt from increased dust deposition differ from climate warming and include delayed phenology, leading to synchronized growth and flowering across the landscape and the opportunity for altered species interactions, landscape-scale gene flow via pollination, and nutrient cycling.
Walker, D. A., Halfpenny, J. C., Walker, M. D., & Wessman, C. A. (1993). Long-Term Studies of Snow-Vegetation Interactions. BioScience, 43, 287-301.
Westerling, A. L., Hidalgo, H. G., Cayan, D. R., & Swetnam, T. W. (2006). Warming and earlier spring increase western US forest wildfire activity. Science, 313, 940-943.
[Abs] Western United States forest wildfire activity is widely thought to have increased in recent decades, yet neither the extent of recent changes nor the degree to which climate may be driving regional changes in wildfire has been systematically documented. Much of the public and scientific discussion of changes in western United States wildfire has focused instead on the effects of 19th- and 20th-century land-use history. We compiled a comprehensive database of large wildfires in western United States forests since 1970 and compared it with hydroclimatic and land-surface data. Here, we show that large wildfire activity increased suddenly and markedly in the mid-1980s, with higher large-wildfire frequency, longer wildfire durations, and longer wildfire seasons. The greatest increases occurred in mid-elevation, Northern Rockies forests, where land-use histories have relatively little effect on fire risks and are strongly associated with increased spring and summer temperatures and an earlier spring snowmelt.
Wipf, S., Rixen, C., & Mulder, C. P. (2006). Advanced snowmelt causes shift towards positive neighbour interactions in a subarctic tundra community. Global Change Biology, 12, 1496-1506.
[Abs] Positive and negative species interactions are important factors in structuring vegetation communities. Studies in many ecosystems have focussed on competition; however, facilitation has often been found to outweigh competition under harsh environmental conditions. The balance between positive and negative species interactions is known to shift along spatial, temporal and environmental gradients and thus is likely to be affected by climate change.
Winter temperature and precipitation patterns in Interior Alaska are rapidly changing and could lead to warmer winters with a shallow, early melting snow cover in the near future. We conducted snow manipulation and neighbour removal experiments to test whether the relative importance of positive and negative species interactions differs between three winter climate scenarios in a subarctic tundra community. In plots with ambient, manually advanced or delayed snowmelt, we assessed the relative importance of neighbours for survival, phenology, growth and reproduction of two dwarf shrub species. Under ambient conditions and after delayed snowmelt, positive and negative neighbour effects were generally balanced, but when snowmelt was advanced we found overall facilitative neighbour effects on survival, phenology, growth and reproduction of Empetrum nigrum, the earlier developing of the two target species. As earlier snowmelt was correlated with colder spring temperatures and a higher number of frosts, we conclude that plants experienced harsher environmental conditions after early snowmelt and that neighbours could have played an important role in ameliorating the physical environment at the beginning of the growing season.