Impact of irrigation over the California Central Valley on regional climate

Zhao Yang, Francina Dominguez, Xubin Zeng, Huancui Hu, Hoshin Gupta, Ben Yang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Irrigation, while being an important anthropogenic factor affecting the local to regional water cycle, is not typically represented in regional climate models. An irrigation scheme is incorporated into the Noah land surface scheme of the Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) Model that has a calibrated convective parameterization and a tracer package is used to tag and track water vapor. To assess the impact of irrigation over the California Central Valley (CCV) on the regional climate of the U.S. Southwest, simulations are run (for three dry and three wet years) both with and without the irrigation scheme. Incorporation of the irrigation scheme resulted in simulated surface air temperature and humidity that were closer to observations, decreased depth of the planetary boundary layer over the CCV, and increased convective available potential energy. The result was an overall increase in precipitation over the Sierra Nevada range and the Colorado River basin during the summer. Water vapor rising from the irrigated region mainly moved northeastward and contributed to precipitation in Nevada and Idaho. Specifically, the results indicate increased precipitation on the windward side of the Sierra Nevada and over the Colorado River basin. The former is possibly linked to a sea-breeze-type circulation near the CCV, while the latter is likely associated with a wave pattern related to latent heat release over the moisture transport belt.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1341-1357
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Hydrometeorology
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1 2017


  • Land surface model
  • Local effects
  • Mesoscale models
  • Regional models
  • Tracers

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Atmospheric Science


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