, Volume 37, Issue 7-8, pp 1587-1600
Date: 10 Nov 2010

Irrigation induced surface cooling in the context of modern and increased greenhouse gas forcing

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Abstract

There is evidence that expected warming trends from increased greenhouse gas (GHG) forcing have been locally ‘masked’ by irrigation induced cooling, and it is uncertain how the magnitude of this irrigation masking effect will change in the future. Using an irrigation dataset integrated into a global general circulation model, we investigate the equilibrium magnitude of irrigation induced cooling under modern (Year 2000) and increased (A1B Scenario, Year 2050) GHG forcing, using modern irrigation rates in both scenarios. For the modern scenario, the cooling is largest over North America, India, the Middle East, and East Asia. Under increased GHG forcing, this cooling effect largely disappears over North America, remains relatively unchanged over India, and intensifies over parts of China and the Middle East. For North America, irrigation significantly increases precipitation under modern GHG forcing; this precipitation enhancement largely disappears under A1B forcing, reducing total latent heat fluxes and the overall irrigation cooling effect. Over India, irrigation rates are high enough to keep pace with increased evaporative demand from the increased GHG forcing and the magnitude of the cooling is maintained. Over China, GHG forcing reduces precipitation and shifts the region to a drier evaporative regime, leading to a relatively increased impact of additional water from irrigation on the surface energy balance. Irrigation enhances precipitation in the Middle East under increased GHG forcing, increasing total latent heat fluxes and enhancing the irrigation cooling effect. Ultimately, the extent to which irrigation will continue to compensate for the warming from increased GHG forcing will primarily depend on changes in the background evaporative regime, secondary irrigation effects (e.g. clouds, precipitation), and the ability of societies to maintain (or increase) current irrigation rates.