Summer scholar Matt Dannenberg presented his work, “Contributions of anthropogenic warming to loss of vegetation health during the 2012-2015 U.S. West Coast drought,” at a February 2 virtual lunch and learn.
Anthropogenic warming exacerbates natural precipitation deficits through heat-induced increases in evaporative demand, which further dries soils and stresses vegetation. Using satellite data, I quantified the extent to which lost vegetation health during the severe 2012-2015 U.S. West Coast drought was directly attributable to anthropogenic warming. Anthropogenic warming clearly amplified the negative effects of the drought on vegetation, with roughly 50% of reduced primary production attributable to anthropogenic climate change. While the single greatest driver of lost vegetation health during the drought was reduced soil moisture from natural variability, the next largest were anthropogenic increases in temperature and vapor pressure deficit (the “dryness” of the atmosphere). Thus, while the drought was initiated by natural variability of precipitation, anthropogenic warming exacerbated these conditions, reducing overall vegetation health and resilience to severe drought and likely increasing the risk of plant mortality.
You can view his presentation here:
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