Penn Staters contributing to National Climate Assessment 2013 Report

Friday, June 22, 2012 - 2:38pm

—Land use and land cover change to have its own chapter


A number of Penn Staters, including several geographers, are contributing to the National Climate Assessment (NCA) 2013 Report, to be published next year by the United States Global Change Research Program (USGCRA).


Penn Staters who are contributing to the NCA 2013 Report



Elizabeth Boyer, associate professor of water resources in the School of Forest Resources, provided technical input for and helped edit the “Impacts on Biogeochemical Cycles, with Implications for Ecosystems and Biodiversity” chapter

Andrew Carleton, professor of geography, provided technical input for and helped edit the “Land Use and Land Cover Change” chapter.

William Easterling, dean of the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences, is serving as a lead author for the “Northeast Region” chapter.

Matthew Hurteau, assistant professor forest resources in the School of Forest Resources, provided technical in put for and helped edit the "Southwest Region" chapter.

Alan Taylor, professor of geography, provided technical in put for and helped edit the "Southwest Region" chapter.

Brent Yarnal, professor of geography, is serving as a convening lead author for the “Northeast Region” chapter.




Eleanor Andrews (M.S. candidate in geography) and Arielle Hesse (Ph.D. candidate in geography) have contributed to the “Northeast Region” chapter. They wrote a case study on shale gas development and its climate change implications.



Andrew Comrie (Ph.D. ’92) is serving as a lead author for the “Southwest Region” chapter

Colin Polsky (Ph.D. ’02) is serving as a convening lead author for the “Land Use and Land Cover Change” chapter



Importance of land use and land cover change

The 2013 NCA report will include, for the first time, a chapter exclusively devoted to land use and land cover change.


“Land use and land cover change (deforestation, reforestation, irrigated agriculture, rainfed agriculture, urbanization, etc.) is an important driver of climate change—these alterations to Earth surface characteristics affect the energy balance, the surface hydrology (evaporation, soil moisture, etc.), near-surface wind patterns, and also cloud and precipitation activity; primarily on regional and local scales,” Carleton notes. “In recent years, awareness has developed that the magnitude of these impacts rivals that of the more well-known greenhouse gases (CO2, methane).”


“My contribution involved primarily a review of the literature on middle-latitude land use/land cover impacts on climate that emphasized (a) agriculture; and (b) urbanization, with specific examples drawn from my own research into Midwest U.S. Corn Belt interactions with climate, Carleton explains. 


Carleton previews 3 key points from the literature:
1. In the Midwest U.S., the deforestation that accompanied the development of rainfed agriculture in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries has modified the contemporary patterns of summertime convective cloud and precipitation development;
2.  The replacement of trees by crops—especially corn and soybeans—tended to lower daytime high temperatures in summer because of the large water loss to the atmosphere as evaporation, which cools the surface (compared with deciduous trees);
3.  Urban areas such as Indianapolis and St. Louis generate their own weather and climate in terms of temperature impacts—the urban heat island effect—but also affect the development and movement patterns of thunderstorms in the warm season; both locally and even downwind on regional scales.


Background on the NCA

The National Climate Assessment (NCA) is being conducted under the auspices of the Global Change Research Act of 1990. The GCRA requires a report to the President and the Congress every four years that integrates, evaluates, and interprets the findings of the U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP); analyzes the effects of global change on the natural environment, agriculture, energy production and use, land and water resources, transportation, human health and welfare, human social systems, and biological diversity; and analyzes current trends in global change, both human-induced and natural, and projects major trends for the subsequent 25 to 100 years.


Each of the technical inputs received by March 1, 2012 was loaded by NCA staff to the workspaces for the chapter authors. These 240 authors, collaborating in 30 teams of eight, had a deadline of June 1 for a first draft of each chapter. A first draft of the full report is expected to be released in December 2012 for public comment.


Getting involved

The National Climate Assessment will convene listening sessions, workshops and other meetings related to developing process and content. The public is also invited to provide comments for topics related to the NCA and expressions of interest for offering technical inputs or assessment capacity.


Learn more about NCA activities and opportunities for involvement