, Volume 111, Issue 1-2, pp 79-96
Date: 20 Apr 2012

Revisiting forest impact on atmospheric water vapor transport and precipitation

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Using a robust global precipitation database, we analyze coast-to-interior seasonal precipitation distributions over the world’s major forest regions. We find that the active functioning of boreal forests in summer is associated with an intense ocean-to-land moisture transport, which declines in winter when forest functioning is minimal. This seasonal switch manifests itself as a change in the exponential scale length of precipitation distribution, which exceeds 15 × 103 km in summer but decreases to (3–4) × 103 km in winter. In equatorial rainforests, which are photosynthetically active throughout the year, annual precipitation remains approximately constant, while the coefficient of variation of monthly precipitation significantly declines toward the continent interior. Precipitation over forest during the periods of active forest functioning is always higher than over the adjacent ocean. Such precipitation patterns support the biotic pump concept according to which forest cover drives the ocean-to-land atmospheric moisture transport on a continental scale.