Impact of land use on Costa Rican tropical montane cloud forests: Sensitivity of orographic cloud formation to deforestation in the plains

Deepak K. Ray, Udaysankar S. Nair, Robert O. Lawton, Ronald M. Welch, Roger A. Pielke

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

104 Scopus citations

Abstract

The current study provides new insights into the coupling of land use in lowland and premontane regions (i.e., regions below 1000 m) and orographic cloud formation over the Monteverde cloud forests. Rawinsondes launched during the Land Use Cloud Interaction Experiment (LUCIE) together with those from the National Centers for Environmental Prediction (NCEP) provided profiles that were used to drive the Colorado State University Regional Atmospheric Modeling System (CSU RAMS) model, which simulated three realistic land use scenarios (pristine forests, current conditions and future deforestation). For current conditions, the model-simulated clouds were compared against those observed at hourly intervals by the Geostationary Environmental Observational Satellite-East (GOES E) satellite. The model performed best on 6 different days. The model-simulated profiles of dew point and air temperatures were compared with the observed profiles from rawinsondes for these days. There was generally very good agreement below 700 mb, the region of the atmosphere most crucial to the cloud forests. The average model simulations for the 6 days show that when the lowland and premontane regions were completely forested, the orographic cloud bank intersected the mountains at the lowest elevations, covered the largest land surface area and remained longest on the surface in the montane regions. Deforestation has decreased the cloud forest area covered with fog in the montane regions by around 5-13% and raised the orographic cloud bases by about 25-75 m in the afternoon. The model results show that further deforestation in the lowland and premontane regions would lead to around 15% decrease in the cloud forest area covered with fog and also raise the orographic cloud base heights by up to 125 m in the afternoon. The simulations show that deforestation in the lowland and premontane regions raises surface sensible heat fluxes and decreases latent heat fluxes. This warms the air temperature and results in a lower dew point temperature of air masses that blow over the lowland and premontane regions. These air masses when lifted form the orographic cloud bank at higher elevations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberD02108
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research Atmospheres
Volume111
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 27 2006

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