Revisiting forest impact on atmospheric water vapor transport and precipitation

Abstract

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.

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Acknowledgments

We are grateful to the Angelini et al. team of authors who readily provided us with the requested information on the geography of the precipitation transects they studied. We thank the reviewers for their helpful comments on the manuscript and also Peter Bunyard, Jan Čermák, Andrei Nefiodov, Antonio Nobre, Jan Pokorny, and Douglas Sheil for numerous and valuable discussions.

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Correspondence to Anastassia M. Makarieva.

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Makarieva, A.M., Gorshkov, V.G. & Li, B. Revisiting forest impact on atmospheric water vapor transport and precipitation. Theor Appl Climatol 111, 79–96 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00704-012-0643-9

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Keywords

  • Boreal Forest
  • Congo
  • Moisture Transport
  • Precipitation Distribution
  • Congo Basin