Climatic Effects of 30 Years of Landscape Change over the Greater Phoenix, Arizona Region: 2. Dynamical and Thermodynamical Response

This paper is part 2 of a two-part study evaluating the climatic effect of one of the nation's most rapidly expanding metropolitan complexes, the Greater Phoenix, Arizona, region.

Part 1, using a set of sensitivity experiments, estimated the potential impact of observed landscape evolution, since the dawn of the Landsat satellite era on the near surface climate, with a primary focus on the alteration of the surface radiation and energy budgets and through use of high-resolution, 2km grid spacing, Regional Atmospheric Modeling System (RAMS) simulations with circa 1973, circa 1992, and circa 2001 landscape data sets.

In this paper, part 2, we address the role of the previously discussed surface budget changes and subsequent repartitioning of energy on the mesoscale dynamics and thermodynamics of the region, the effect on convective rainfall, and their association with the large-scale North American Monsoon System (NAMS). Our results show that contrasts in surface heating resulting from landscape change are responsible for the development of preferentially located mesoscale circulations, on most days, which were stronger for the 2001 compared to the 1973 landscape, due to increased planetary boundary layer (PBL) heating via enhanced turbulent heat flux.

The effect of these stronger circulations was to warm and dry the lower part of the PBL and moisten the upper part of the PBL for the 2001 relative to the 1973 landscape. The precise physical pathway(s) whereby precipitation enhancement is initiated with evolving landscape, since the early 1970s, reveals a complicated interplay among scales (from the turbulent to the synoptic scale) that warrants future research. Precipitation recycling, however, was found to be an important driver in the overall sustenance of rainfall enhancement.

Although this study was not designed to investigate other radiative forcing factors such as greenhouse gas emissions and aerosols, the results of our sensitivity experiments do suggest that regional land use change is an important element of climate change in semiarid environments characterized by large urban areas with scarce water resources.