NCEAS Product 24905

Baldocchi, Dennis; Ma, Siyan. 2013. How will land use affect air temperature in the surface boundary layer? Lessons learned from a comparative study on the energy balance of an oak savanna and annual grassland in California, USA. Tellus Series B-Chemical and Physical Meteorology. Vol: 65. Pages 19994. (Abstract) (Online version)


We investigated the effect of land use on differences in air temperature. We based our analysis on a decade of weather and energy flux measurements, collected over two contrasting landscapes, an oak savanna and an annual grassland, growing under the same climate conditions. Over the decade, the daily-averaged, potential air temperature above the aerodynamically rougher and optically darker oak savanna was 0.5°C warmer than that above the aerodynamically smoother and optically brighter annual grassland. However, air temperature differences were seasonal. Smallest differences in potential air temperature occurred towards the end of spring, when much of the soil moisture reservoir was depleted. Largest differences in potential air temperature occurred during the winter rain season when the grass was green and transpiring and when the trees were senescent or deciduous. To understand the effect of land use on the local climate, we examined the concomitant changes in net radiation, sensible and latent heat exchange, the aerodynamic roughness (Ra), the surface resistance to water transfer (Rs), aerodynamic surface temperature and the growth of the planetary boundary layer, with measurements and model computations. Overall, these biophysical variables provide us with mechanistic information to diagnose and predict how changes in air temperature will follow changes in land use or management. In conclusion, land use change is responsible for having a marked impact on the local climate of a region. At the local level, the change in the surface energy balance, towards a darker and rougher surface, will produce an additive increment to climate warming induced by a greater greenhouse gas burden in the atmosphere.